It seems even 20-30 year olds can go to their GP now and be told their aches & pains are “just their age” or “just arthritis” so do we really all have it? Well the short answer is YES but lets be clear about what is meant by arthritis. There are several different conditions that have the word arthritis applied to them, some of them have nothing to do with your age, some of them require medication and some of them are easily managed with lifestyle changes & manual therapies like chiropractic.
Inflammatory arthritides are the group of related arthritis (literally means joint pain) conditions that include rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondilitis, reactive arthritis & gout. They are very painful and occur in sharp bouts of pain, with red, hot, swollen joints. They can be controlled by medication or less harmful methods like ice and comfrey. The underlying causes are usually a combination of genetics and lifestyle, particularly poor diet. Physical therapies like chiropractic can help improve mobility but are best avoided or minimised during severe inflammatory episodes. Emotions also play a role in the intensity of pain and the occurrence of inflammatory bouts so treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and emotional freedom technique (EFT) can help in some cases.
Osteoarthritis: By far the most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis also known as degenerative joint disease and almost every adult will show some signs of this on x-ray in at least some of their joints especially the neck, back and knees. It cannot be cured and it cannot be avoided. This is the reason for the provocative headline of this article, but now the good news. In most cases especially if you start doing something about it early enough the pain and disability of osteoarthritis can be minimised and the progression of it slowed down so that it barely bothers you throughout your life. To find out how read on below!
Osteoarthritis is essentially wear & tear on your body throughout your life. If you hop around on one leg for years expect some early onset hip degeneration in that hip. If you are significantly overweight and/or have bad biomechanics of your hips & pelvis expect some advanced degeneration of your low back and knees. Many people think running is a key provoker of knee degeneration but recent studies have actually shown that this is not the case and non-runners actually have greater levels of degeneration. The biggest problem with running is that most people run with bad technique and run too far for their fitness levels, as well as having underlying biomechanical dysfunctions of the feet, hips and pelvis which put more pressure on the knees.
So hopefully you can start to see from the paragraph above that the majority of degeneration is not just your age or genetics it is how you perform movements, how often you perform them and how vigorous you perform them. Previous traumatic injuries like fractures also increase levels of degeneration around the injured area. Another factor is repetitive strain from work whether it is a physical job affecting things like shoulders and knees or a sedentary job affecting necks and low backs because of a lack of movement. I should also mention here that what you eat & drink can speed up or slow down degeneration of joints. An unhealthy diet particularly excessive sugar and insufficient healthy fats will speed up degeneration.
How do you slow it down then? Well eating healthily and doing regular moderate intensity, good technique exercise will help, especially working on things like core stability, hip mobility, thoracic (mid back) spine mobility, deep neck flexor endurance & foot/ankle mobility (See conditions pages for more exercise advice). You can do this with the right guidance from a knowledgeable fitness trainer/chiropractor and chiropractors can also help speed up the mobility improvements and pain relief with regular treatment to keep your joints loose, this should be somewhere between every 1 and 6 months depending on how much you are looking after yourself at home/in the gym.
If your degeneration gets bad enough you will likely have to resort to painkillers, injections and surgery but these should be a last resort as they do not solve the problem they will just help make the worst problems more bearable. So if you want to start taking control of your body find a good chiropractor and start getting some treatment and exercise advice that can help you grow old gracefully and make the most out of your free time. If you’re close enough to Exminster come to our clinic at the westbank healthy living centre (07710791434). Feel free to learn what you can from our information pages on this site, more free stuff coming soon!