Joint inflammation is painful and the reason why many people are looking for answers. Friction or grinding in the joints creates wear and tear, erodes the cartilaginous surface and causes heat, inflammation and swelling inside the joint. Chiropractors adjust the joints and realign them back to their normal, healthy position.
What are the names of some common conditions associated with inflammation in joints?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: One of the great things about medicine is they tend to take and put Latin names on anything. You’ve heard anything that ends in ‘itis’, there’s gastritis, there’s all these different ‘itises’. ‘Itis’ literally means inflammation. Then when we’re talking about the joints, arth, A-R-T-H, is the Latin root for joint. Arthritis literally means inflammation of the joint. What you’re asking me is like a trick question. There’s lots of different types of arthritis that will affect different joints. The thing that we most commonly see in a chiropractic office is osteoarthritis and we see a fair amount of rheumatoid arthritis as well. And there’s people who present with psoriatic arthritis, and there’s a whole host of different arthritities that people come in and seek care for in our offices.
Osteoarthritis is the thing that we see the most in the spine and that results from wear and tear on the spine, injury and things of that nature. Anything that causes trauma, whether it be microtrauma or significant trauma, from blunt force trauma from a fall or an accident or something that can cause arthritis or inflammation or swelling inside the joint.
My next question was going to be what causes inflammation in the joints, so you’re getting into that now, so please go ahead.
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: The thing that most contributes to what we call osteoarthritis or the bony arthritis that we see a lot in our office is usually secondary to poor alignment and overuse. I always use the analogy of cars. If the frontend of my car is not lined up right, of course the car will still drive, I can still drive it fast, but if I drive it a lot, and I drive it fast, eventually it’s going to start to wear out the tires because the frontend is not in good alignment. The same thing happens in the body if the joints are not lined up properly. It creates friction or grinding and that will create wear and tear. It will erode or generate the cartilaginous surface which will cause heat and inflammation and swelling inside the joint.
If it goes on long enough, it will actually negatively impact the bone and you can start to see changes in the bone, such as bone spurs and the joint space becomes very thin and narrow. Those are the things, that if not corrected, will continue that joint on the path of degeneration. There are basically three phases of degeneration, depending on where you are, would determine how much care that person needs. There are other things such as blunt force trauma which can cause arthritis and then there’s the autoimmune things like we see with rheumatoid arthritis where the body’s own immune system is starting to take a look at the cartilage and looking at it as it’s foreign and actually attacking the body’s own cartilage and creating the rheumatoid arthritis which can be really devastating if that is allowed to go unchecked.
How do you determine if someone has inflammation in the joints?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Determining that, there’s a couple of different ways. People will come in typically complaining of joint pain so if you see inflammation or swelling on the physical examination, then the joints will be red and swollen and tender to the touch. They’ll become very irritated with use. The second thing which is confirmatory, you can take x-rays and there’s almost always going to be radiographic evidence of inflammation. If it’s been present for a long time, you can actually see those bony changes or the joint space becoming more narrow. Bone spurs and the joints just don’t look that clean, clear, healthy look. They look foggy and degenerated. Those changes you’ll see on x-ray. Then there’s some other test where they can look into the blood to see if there’s inflammation. That’s going to be more useful when you’re looking for psoriatic arthritis or the rheumatoid type arthritis. The general osteoarthritis, you’re usually going to find on the physical examination and then confirm it with x-rays.
How does chiropractic care treat inflammation in the joints?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: The decrease in inflammation is just a byproduct of improving mechanics or the alignment. I sometimes use the example of door hinges. If anyone ever used a door hinge that was bent or if your car was in an accident. You keep opening the door and you hear that scraping and grinding because the door is just not true to the frame and it doesn’t fit in there properly. Same thing, if you can correct that alignment by straightening out or adjusting the joints and realigning them to their normal position, you will stop that process immediately right in its tracks and it won’t progress. Arthritis tends to be progressive in nature, so if you don’t correct the alignment, over time those joints will degenerate further and eventually become worse or what most people would say more arthritic.
We want to improve the mechanics to decrease any type of irritation or friction that’s going on in the joint and then obviously there’s ice, which helps control inflammation. There are certain herbs that are great for controlling information, there are dietary things, by decreasing the amount of acidity in the body, that can help. There are a lot of different things ranging from what I do as a chiropractor to nutritional options will also help deal with some of the inflammatory processes going on with the arthritic changes.
Is it possible to treat inflammation naturally and holistically without medication?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: It really is. We described before by maintaining proper alignment and those things, but the key here is not waiting until the problem shows up and then trying to treat it. You can prevent arthritic change and if people know that they have arthritis in their family history, according to the MacArthur Foundation, most of the things that we suffer are only 30% genetic and 70% lifestyle. We can change our lifestyle and improve the outcomes. It’s really about making sure that you keep the joints moving because when a joint doesn’t move properly or you don’t move it as much, you’re not swirling up the synovial fluid to get that joint nutrition, so motion is life.
Chiropractic puts motion into the joints and exercise also will help lubricate the joints and keep them moving freely and not allowing them to essentially rust, which is the best way I can describe degenerative changes. It’s absolutely possible and it’s just by doing periodic checkups, just like you don’t wait until your teeth hurt and you have these bad cavities and mouth pain before you go to a dentist. You go periodically to prevent those things. It’s the same concept in chiropractic. We want to teach people how to prevent these things rather than try and battle back once they’ve arrived. It’s about staying ahead of the curve and really taking care of yourself.
I just wanted to cycle back. When you asked if there was a natural way that chiropractic can help with the other arthritities, particularly the rheumatoid and the autoimmune stuff, that seems to be a nerve system problem, where you’re own nerve system and immune system are looking at your body in an odd way, where it thinks that the cartilage is foreign and then it sends the immune system cells to go and attack it. If we can lower the amount of irritation or static in the lines by clearing out the spine and making sure everything is lined up, there’s no irritation to the nerve system, your nerve system should work better and your immune system should work better and it shouldn’t be making those mistakes and attacking your cartilage.
There’s a lot to be said by keeping the nerve systems strong and healthy since it is the master system controlling everything else, the better tuned that is, the less likely the body is going to make mistakes and start attacking its own tissues.
To speak with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein, visit www.ChiropractorMidtown.com or call 917-534-6484 to schedule an appointment