Not too long ago, arthritis was deemed to be just another facet of the aging process - something someone would have to suffer through. Once arthritis reared its rickety head, patients were advised to slow down, rest and take drugs to alleviate the symptoms. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. Recent findings have added a wealth of new evidence to question the treatment of arthritis.
Arthritis is defined as an inflammation of the joints, and is commonly used to refer to rheumatic diseases. Diseases of a rheumatic nature consist of more than 100 conditions. Among them are psoriasis arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout. One of these conditions is rheumatoid arthritis, which affects about 2 million people in the US. Even though rheumatoid arthritis typically starts either in one's middle age or, more frequently, in one's later years, some patients experience symptoms much earlier.
Those afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis experience joint swelling, pain, stiffness, and, in more severe cases, loss of function. The following symptoms categorize rheumatoid arthritis:
Joints that is swollen, warm, and tender
Prolonged joint stiffness and pain that lasts more than 30 minutes
A general sense of illness, tiredness, or fever
Symmetrical symptoms; both joints are affected (both wrists, for example)
Most often the wrist and finger joints that are closest to the hand are affected as well as the shoulder, hip, knee, elbow, ankle, neck, and feet
Symptoms can progressively spread to other parts of the body, not just the joints, and can last for years
The way in which rheumatoid arthritis manifests itself is highly individualized. There are those patients who experience only mild symptoms for a few months or a number of years, and then see their symptoms disappear. Others have moderate symptoms with occasional flares (when the symptoms worsen), and periods where the symptoms also either gets milder or disappears for a time. Those patients who have severe forms of rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, experience constant pain. Their pain persists for years, and may lead to serious joint damage and/or disability.
Arthritis and Exercise
In order to ameliorate symptoms, arthritis patients can greatly benefit from regular exercise. In fact, exercise is considered key to arthritis management. Exercise promotes the maintenance of healthy, strong muscles, flexibility, endurance, and joint mobility. However, rest helps to lessen active joint inflammation, fatigue, and pain.
To achieve optimum results, one needs to strike a balance between the rest and exercise - resting more during active phases of arthritis and exercising more during the times when symptoms decrease. In those times when symptoms systematically or locally flare up, patients can gently exercise their joints. A health care provider should be consulted in order to determine how much rest is best during these periods.
Exercises known as "range of motion," such as dance, stretching, and tai chi, help maintain regular joint movement and stimulates overall joint flexibility. They can be done on a daily basis, or at least three or four times a week. Strengthening exercises such as mild weight lifting helps increase muscle strength, which plays a role in supporting and protecting affected joints. Unless the pain and swelling is severe, these exercises should be done three or four times a week. Other aerobic exercises, such as walking and swimming, aids the cardiovascular system, muscle tone, and weight control. Swimming, in particular, provides a low risk of stress injuries and has little impact on the body, making it an ideal option for many patients. Swimming can be practiced for 20 or 30 minutes every other day if the symptoms are not aggravated.
The Role of a Chiropractor in Managing Arthritis
Your chiropractic doctor can help your body move with more ease and comfort. The need for pain medications is reduced once the body is aligned and can move more freely. Chiropractic care can significantly help avoid arthritis' more damaging effects. Chiropractic care addresses lifestyle, diet, exercise, and other factors that influence a person's health as a whole. A healthy weight and immune system are also relevant factors in preventing the more harmful effects of rheumatoid arthritis.
Chiropractic care focuses on physical manipulation and alignment, so that joints can benefit from adjustments aimed at reducing pain and stiffness. Many additional approaches of chiropractic care address the needs of arthritic patients. The incorporation of massage in chiropractic care can play a role in reducing stiffness, helping the arthritic patient move more freely. Heat and cold compresses helps relieve arthritic pain. In addition, electrical stimulation is linked with encouraging the release of endorphins, also countering pain receptors. Chiropractic care offers a non-invasive, holistic way to promote overall health and manage conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, reducing the reliance on strong medications.
As well as addressing joint inflammation through physical manipulation, chiropractic care can tailor the right exercise program, and offer comprehensive nutrition and supplement advice for your needs.