Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis
By Jakob van Vlijmen
M Chiro, DC
Arthritis is often referred to as a single disease. In fact, it is an umbrella term for more than 100 medical conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, specifically joints where two or more bones meet. Today we will discuss Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis as they are the most common and there is some confusion about their causes and possible treatment methods.
Between the bones and joints of our body sits our cartilage, this cartilage prevents the bones from rubbing against each other and helps joints move with ease. Some wear and tear of this cartilage is a natural process and happens to all of us when we age; this is called Osteoarthritis (OA). Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) however is an auto immune disease in which the body attacks its own cartilage causing it to break down. The cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is not clear, it is believed however, to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors such as smoking, obesity, and heavy drinking.
OA most often affects the knees, hips, lower back, big toe of the feet and the small joints in the hand at the very end of the fingers. While RA most often affects the small joints in the hand closest to the body, the feet and the cervical spine, however some bigger joints like the shoulder and knee can be involved. Patients complain of stiff and painful joints, the pain is usually worse on waking or after having been stationary for some time and decreases after movement. It takes a lot longer for the morning pain in RA to subside than it does with OA which usually subsides within the hour. Surrounding muscles can cramp up due to joint dysfunction which can further exacerbate the symptoms and cause difficulties in adjacent areas. For example OA in the lower back can give pain in the buttock area and OA in the hip can cause pain in the groin.
In most cases of RA a Rheumatologist may prescribe a number of different medications depending on your symptoms and the severity of your condition. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation. The disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are a special group of medications used to decrease the abnormal function of the immune system that drives Rheumatoid Arthritis. Biological DMARDs are the newest class of Arthritis medication and work to stop the disease progressing by targeting specific molecules in the immune system. Often you may be on a combination of medications. Chiropractic care cannot stop the immune system from attacking the joint so it has a limited role to play in the care of RA. Chiropractic care can help however with symptomatic relief of pain that has a mechanical origin due to compensatory movement patterns caused by the RA. In simple terms if your left hand hurts due to RA using the right one more can cause a strain on it. Chiropractic care can help manage or prevent this.
In some cases of OA a joint replacement might be the best strategy however, depending on the degrees of discomfort and the patient’s lifestyle it might be managed with conservative care. In spinal OA conservative management is the only option as spine replacement is not (yet) possible. In this area chiropractic care can be of great service. How well a joint functions is influenced by many different factors; the quality of the articulating bones, the surrounding ligament and the muscles that move the joint. So there are quite a few factors that chiropractic care can influence and this makes a world of differences for some and for others less so. Talk to us today to find out if chiropractic care can help you.