Many people consider recurring joint pain, stiffness, and swelling to be an unavoidable part of getting older. Especially if you played contact sports, like football, or worked in a very physical career, like construction, in your younger years, joint pain, stiffness, and swelling may set in even earlier than you expected. However, chiropractic care can help treat joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, and in many cases can also help keep your joints from developing these painful and bothersome conditions in the first place (or at least put it off a few more years!).
Causes of Joint Pain / Joint Stiffness / Joint Swelling
Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling can be related maladies that develop together or you can experience just one of two of them. For instance, many people have joint stiffness without pain or swelling. For others, the pain may keep you from wanting to move the joint, but the joint itself isn’t truly stiff. When you meet with your chiropractor, he or she will ask you questions and, if possible, gently move your joint, to determine which of these three ailments you are experiencing and to attempt to ascertain the root of the problem.
If you’re dealing with joint pain, joint stiffness, and/or joint swelling, you’ve probably heard of arthritis. Arthritis is very common – about 50 million adult Americans deal with arthritis every year. But did you know there is a different kind of arthritis for practically every joint in your body? In fact, “arthritis” simply means that you are experiencing joint pain or joint disease. It’s a catch-all term and once it’s determined that you have arthritis, your doctor will need to investigate further to determine the type of arthritis you are experiencing, as this will give your doctor a better idea of how to plan your treatment.
Some Facts About Arthritis
• There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions.
• Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States.
• Arthritis is more common among women.
• The older we get, the more likely we are to develop arthritis…
• …but even children can get arthritis. It’s estimated that over 300,000 children in the U.S. are currently suffering from arthritis.
• Arthritis is not something to just “suffer through.” It can cause permanent joint damage, so seek treatment as soon as symptoms become apparent.
3 Common Types of Arthritis That Cause Joint Pain, Swelling, and Stiffness
Although there are over 100 different types of arthritis, some are far more common than others. Here are some of the more common types of arthritis with a bit about how they differ from each other.
• Degenerative Arthritis (Osteoarthritis)
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and it’s the kind that most of us, as we age, will encounter at some point. Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage in your joints wears down or disappears completely. Cartilage is a rubbery substance that allows the bones in a joint to move while still being connected. Think of it as a sort of sponge between your bones. It can compress and expand as the bones move, but keeps them from grinding against one another. When cartilage wears away, either due to injury of the joint or the progress of time (especially in often used joints), the bones are not protected from one another as well as they used to be. When they start to grind against one another, it causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. If left untreated, this pain can become chronic and can cause the joint to experience permanent lack of movement.
• Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis. We have come to think of internal inflammation as a bad thing. But it’s not always a bad thing. Inflammation is what happens when the body sense infection or disease and it’s what helps the body attack these invaders and heal itself. But an over-reactive immune system can sometimes mistake healthy tissue in our body for a foreign invader. In these cases, the body may produce inflammation in the perceived problematic area. Inflammation like this can deteriorate joints, as well as other organs and tissues in the body. That’s what rheumatoid arthritis is. Rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammatory arthritis (or auto-immune diseases) can be genetic or environmental, but researchers and doctors find it to be a nearly impossible task to nail down precise environmental causes: the cause may be different for nearly every person experiencing symptoms.
• Infectious Arthritis
If bacteria, a virus, or a fungus get into a joint, they can trigger inflammation that causes joint swelling, stiffness, and pain. Examples of infections that can cause joint pain, swelling, and stiffness are salmonella (food poisoning), certain STDs, and hepatitis C. Early detection is the key to avoiding chronic pain when joint pain, stiffness, and swelling is caused by an infection.
How Chiropractic Can Treat Common Causes of Joint Pain, Joint Stiffness, and Joint Swelling
Osteoarthritis is, by far, the most common cause of arthritis and joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Luckily, chiropractic care can help ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis and can even help slow disease progression. The first task your chiropractor will undertake in your treatment is to determine the severity of your symptoms and how progressed your osteoarthritis is. Your chiropractor may apply and/or advise you to apply hot and cold therapies to the joint to reduce inflammation. They will likely advise you to maintain a healthy weight and diet, as this will reduce stress on your joints in general.
You chiropractor may also determine that strengthening the muscles around the joint will help improve joint health. This is one of the trickier points of reducing joint inflammation: in some cases, the joint needs to rest. In other cases, safe and gentle exercises may actually improve joint function. In most cases, a combination of the two will be the right answer. Your chiropractor will help guide you to get to the right balance of rest and gentle movement to improve your joint health and to reduce joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Chiropractic as a Preventative Measure
Even if you are not yet experiencing joint pain, stiffness, or swelling, you might want to consider adding regular chiropractic treatments to your health regimen. Regular chiropractic treatments can keep your spine (and its bones and cartilage) in healthy working order and can identify and treat problem areas before they become severe.