What Really Causes Arthritis (And How Do You Prevent It)?
“Why do I have arthritis?”
May is Arthritis Awareness Month, and at Brookfield chiropractor Ascent Chiropractic we wanted to take the opportunity to remind our patients and readers that it’s a good time to check on the status of your body’s joints.
Arthritis affects an estimated 58.5 million Americans, and experts believe that number will only continue to grow as our nation’s population gets older. But what exactly is arthritis, and what causes it? The truth is that the answer is complicated and still not fully understood, making it a question most healthcare professionals struggle to answer.
We usually use the word arthritis as a shorthand term for osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that causes joint stiffness and pain. And while osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, it’s not the only type – there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions.
These arthritic conditions can be broken down into two main categories – inflammatory (rheumatoid arthritis, AS, psoriatic arthritis) and noninflammatory. We’re going to discuss noninflammatory arthritis, as that’s where you’ll find osteoarthritis.
What is noninflammatory arthritis?
Noninflammatory arthritis causes reduced mobility and bony changes in your joints, often striking the knees, thumbs and spine. The joint stiffness and pain tend to be worse when you haven’t been active for a while and usually improve once you get moving.
But what causes it?
The following explanation is a bit simplified, but it’s my preferred line of thinking when it comes to explaining arthritis.
The bones that make up our joints are covered in a flexible connective tissue called cartilage that keeps joint motion fluid and cushions our bones against impact. For the most part, cartilage doesn’t contain blood vessels or nerves, meaning it doesn’t have a nutrition or waste removal service. Instead, it relies on the movement of water from the synovial fluid (the thick lubricating fluid located within your joints) into and out of it to nourish it and keep it clean!
A bit like a sponge…
Water is constantly being drawn into cartilage by molecules called proteoglycans embedded within it, and then squeezed out by the forces it experiences during movement and loading.
When there’s a breakdown in this transportation of water into and out of cartilage, things tend to go downhill quickly. In early arthritis, it’s actually increased levels of water in the cartilage that’s the problem.
When not enough water is being squeezed out of the cartilage, waste products are not removed and the cartilage environment becomes toxic. This starts a cascade of chemical reactions leading to cartilage degeneration (and makes for an unhappy sponge).
Joint cartilage requires movement every day to squeeze water out of it and remove these waste products. Unsticking ‘stuck’ joints (chiropractic care) and then getting moving (exercise) forces water and waste products out of the cartilage and improves the cellular environment. This is why – among many other reasons – exercise and chiropractic care are essential for preventing arthritis!
In fact, a 2012 JMPT study found that it took less than ten chiropractic treatments for 83% of patients with pain caused by hip osteoarthritis to report significant improvement.
So while there’s truth to the principle of wear and tear causing arthritis, it’s often totally misunderstood. The problem is usually not too much movement but too little!
At Ascent Chiropractic we’re committed to not just relieving those stiff, painful joints but to correcting their cause and optimizing your body to function better than it ever has before. Our unique, low-force, evidence-based approach to treatment allows us to correct spinal biomechanics, restore normal joint function, and get you on the road back to optimal health.
Don’t want arthritis and chronic joint pain and stiffness to be part of your future? Schedule an appointment by calling us at 262-345-4166 or use our online scheduling app.