Joint Dysfunction

Joint dysfunction usually causes pain in the joints like the knees or hips but it can be corrected with chiropractic care. Chiropractors can adjust the spine to release pressure on the nerves which allows the joints to function freely and properly.

What are the most common types of joint dysfunction that you treat in your practice?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: That’s an interesting question. In chiropractic, we use our own terminology, and what they call, basically in the medical profession, joint dysfunction in chiropractic we call it a subluxation. Now, a subluxation means that the bones themselves of the spine have gotten misaligned, and when those bones misalign, they pinch or irritate the nerves that exit from in between the joints of the spine. There’s a little notch in the vertebra above and a little notch in the vertebra below, and coming off the spinal cord, that nerve exits right in that hole, but if there is a misalignment, it can put pressure on that nerve and irritate it. That’s what a subluxation is. It’s when a bone or a joint of the spine is misaligned, it’s fixed or stuck in that abnormal position, and it’s pinching or irritating a nerve causing altered function. So that’s pretty much what joint dysfunction is. Most commonly, a chiropractor will be looking at joint dysfunction in the spine. If joint dysfunction is there long enough, it will certainly cause degenerative changes and arthritic changes in the joints and that can perpetuate the subluxation complex.

What are the main causes and symptoms of joint dysfunction?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, the common symptoms for most people that trigger them to come into a chiropractic office is pain. Most people think chiropractic is about back pain and neck pain, but the reality, it is much more far reaching than just about your pain. Chiropractic is truly about your nerve system because the nerve system is that master system that controls and coordinates everything else in your body. If your nerve system isn’t functioning right, any of the systems that it controls probably isn’t going to function right. So, it’s really about the communication in the body. But the main causes of the subluxations or joint dysfunction could be stress, tension, poor posture, accidents, falls, repetitive stress injuries, myriads of things can cause these joints to get offline or out of alignment and start to put pressure on those delicate spinal nerves and cause problems. And that can happen, again, in the ankle, the knee, the hip joint, the sacroiliac joints. Any joint can have misalignment and then start to degenerate or cause problems in the body.

Are there specific chiropractic treatments and therapies used to help rehabilitate joints?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Of course, there are. The primary thing that a chiropractor does is what’s called an adjustment. An adjustment is a very specific force introduced into the spine to correct a misaligned vertebra. So, if a vertebra is shifted left and it’s stuck towards the left, we’re going to use a little bit of energy to kind of help break up that fixation and realign the vertebra, and that’s called a chiropractic adjustment where I will put a little bit of an introduced force into the spine in the correct direction to get the joint moving properly. Once we break up that fixation that was holding that bone in that stuck, malposition, the body will then naturally just replace it and put it back into the proper position and keep it there hopefully. Sometimes it can take a few adjustments to get everything going, but basically by adjusting the joints, that breaks up the fixation, gets them lined up and moving better, and that will actually alleviate the joint dysfunction or what we call correcting the subluxation. But it’s all about getting the pressure off the nerves and ensuring proper mechanics will always keep those joints in proper alignment and keep them healthier for a lifetime.

For a new patient experiencing joint pain, what is involved in the first chiropractic visit and what are follow up visits like?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, the great thing about chiropractic, it doesn’t really change too much when you’re dealing with a painful condition. When we do a spinal examination, we’re always looking for the same thing, distortions and misalignments or what we call subluxations in the spine. So, we’re going to do a careful history. We’re going to find out where they’ve been, what they’ve been doing, what in their habits have caused this certain condition, and then we’re going to do a detailed examination to figure out what structures are involved, where the problem is, and determine how serious it is. We will also very often take X-rays and try and locate and find where that area of misalignment is and we can also, when we look at the joints, we can see if there’s any degenerative changes or see how advanced the joint dysfunction or the subluxations are and that’ll give us an idea of how long the person’s had that problem and what it might take to actually correct it.

We’ll take a look at the X-rays and correlate everything we see on the physical examination and that we got from the history and then devise a treatment plan based on what we’re seeing from those three things, the examination, the history, and the X-rays. Once we take all three of those things into account, we’ll know exactly what the problem is, where it is, how long they’ve had it, and then we can move forward on the corrective phase.

Can chiropractic treatments help prevent the need for joint surgery? If not, under what conditions would someone need surgery?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, I’m going to answer the second part of that first. If someone is considering surgery, it’s usually a quality of life issue. If I’m in so much pain and I can’t do my job and I can’t be a good husband and I can’t exercise or I can’t walk and I’ve tried everything else under the sun and nothing is helping me, then sometimes surgery is warranted. But I always make sure and caution people to exhaust every other option from acupuncture to vitamins to exercise, chiropractic of course, anything that they can do to prevent that surgery. Because once you have the surgery, you can’t undo it. All the other things are more conservative in their approach and if conservative management can help that person enjoy a quality of life, you don’t need the surgery or you at least could prolong it and make sure that you don’t need it now and it’s always better to have a surgery later if you can avoid it.

So many people have so much pain and discomfort that they just opt for the surgical option without trying other options. Now, chiropractic, can it help prevent the need for joint surgery? Absolutely. I’ve had many people come to my office that were scheduled for surgeries and said, “Oh, I’ll give this chiropractic a try as like a last-ditch effort.” Many of them have gone on and not had surgery. So, it’s amazing. I’ve had some people that honestly that we couldn’t help that went through some care and didn’t get the results they were looking for and ended up having surgery, but the majority of the time with conservative management, people respond very well, and can improve the quality of their life and eliminate the need for surgery.

But it’s really a quality of life, individual decision because unless the surgery is life threatening, but most joint surgeries aren’t to save a life, they’re to improve the quality of life. But if you can improve the quality of your life naturally without using drug and surgery, then it’s definitely worth a shot because the surgical option will always be there for you later.

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