What is arthritis? Once I've been diagnosed with this it is a permanent condition, right?
Wrong, several people get the diagnosis that they have arthritis and assume that is some kind of condition that they can not get help with. There are several types of arthritis. Some are autoimmune disorders and some are degenerative in nature. I am not writing about autoimmune arthritis like rheumatoid at this time. I am concentrating on the kind of arthritis that comes from degeneration of a joint via overuse and external damage. The diagnosis is a little more general than specific by definition. The word arthritis comes from the Latin root "arthro" meaning joint and "itis" meaning swelling. How many people can I tell have joints that are swollen? When knees hurt after working out, could I tell a person they have arthritis? What about when someone worked hard with their hands and they hurt, can't I say they have arthritis of the hands? And what is the common medical remedy for arthritis? Isn't it an anti-inflammatory? A prescribed ibuprofen that reduces inflammation. Celebrex is an anti-inflammatory. Are anti-inflammatories supposed to be used las daily supplements for the human body?
First, let's look at what is taking place in the body under normal conditions: The joint consists of two bones inter-related to form a point of movement. Covering the bones are cells called synovial cells. On the bone side of the synovial cells the blood vessels bring nutrients to the cells. On the joint side of the synovial cells, the cells produce synovial fluid (a runny jelly like substance). This synovial fluid keeps the joint connective tissue healthy and provides a cushion to the joint. Surrounding the joint and forming a capsule is connective tissue, ligamentive material that is tough and flexible. Running over the joint is tendons that attach muscle to the bones above and below the joint in order to move the joint.
In healthy conditions the muscles contract pulling on the bones and the joint flexes according to the design of the joint. Everyone has several different types of bone joints like joints that act like a hinge or a "one-directional" mover like a Elbow joint. Some joints act like a ball and socket like the shoulder joint enabling the arm to move in several directions. Some joints can flex a little with some pivot and side to side motion like joints of the neck. Some joints allow small range of motion like the low back joints protecting us from rotational injury to the intervertebral discs. The muscles move the joint. Blood vessels carry nutrients and oxygen to the joint. Nerves give correct information back and forth between the brain and the body.
As I said before, muscles move the joints around. Located throughout the muscle is blood vessels and nerves. When the muscle strains and sprains small cellular breaks happen in the muscle. Supportive cells lay down new connective tissue to repair the breaks. The blood vessels may get interrupted and circulation will be altered. If this happens over and over again then the muscle's flexibility and elasticity becomes reduced. The circulation through that same space is altered and reduced. Nutrients and oxygen is reduced to the joint. The synovial cells starve for nutrition and reduce synovial fluid production. Muscles become tighter around the joint.
These things make the joint feel stiff. When we move some, we feel pain from tighter muscles stretching. Sometimes we feel pain from the bones of the joint pushing together. This stretch and pain releases inflammatory chemicals to cushion the joint. These chemicals cause more stretch of muscle, ligaments, and tendons sending more signals of stretching pain to the brain. After a while we give in and take anti-inflammatories. These anti-inflammatories contain chemicals to stop the prostaglandin molecules. Yes, this reduces the inflammation. Guess what though..., prostaglandin is also needed to make more connective tissue, to build connections between gut cells, to protect you from ulcers, and to make chemicals in the brain to help you have deep repairing sleep . So we stop the inflammation but also we stop the production of connective tissue like important cartilage and synovial fluid. Oops! Some one goofed on this one. That's why I tell my patients to be careful with ibuprofen and try and limit it to no more than 3 days in a row.
The better solution to arthritis is in prevention. We need to restore the normal movement of the joint. This is done by re-aligning the bones in proper joint position, retraining the muscle to be elastic and flexible, increase the circulation through the area, and restore the nerve function. Chiropractors are the only practitioners who are trained over four years to do exactly this type of work. I've known of some very experienced physical therapist that know how to work the joint and muscle, but I would not trust this work to someone with weekend seminar training, 64 hour specialty training, or even a two year training coarse. The best trained individual to restore normal joint movements are chiropractors who have trained four years in school for this and have lots of experience with correcting joint movement. Now there are limitations to the joint. If the degeneration of the joint has gone for such a long time some repair may be nearly impossible. I say nearly because as long as you have blood moving through your body, you can make a difference to the joint. However, saying that, I also have to note that restoration of joints takes time and effort. Sometimes the damage is so extensive that the majority of us would not continue with the repair process. So the best thing to do is catch things early.