There is no such thing as age appropriate arthritis.  

arthritis knee

In our culture we say it is ok or normal or appropriate to have arthritis as we age. I have heard from new patients that arrive at our office, all too often, “My doctor says I have ‘Age Appropriate Arthritis’. Personally, I am surprised that it hasn’t been made into an acronym yet….”You have AAA!”

Guess what? I disagree. There is no such thing as age appropriate arthritis.

If we go back in history we find that for most of the early colonial period dentistry was a rare and unusual practice in United States. There are documented situations where the barber or blacksmith would be called to pull a tooth. At that time, that was normal and appropriate care.

I am grateful to say that over the last 2 centuries agents and devices have evolved, through research, to enable people, with professional assistance, to maintain good oral health. Our diets, our lifestyles and professional expertise have influenced what is now considered appropriate oral health. I am happy to say, in our culture today it is not ok or normal or appropriate to loose your teeth at an early age.

So back to Age Appropriate Arthritis. I’ve been a chiropractor a long time now and at this point in my career I have seen hundreds of thousands of spinal x-rays…of all ages…young and old. I have seen spines that are in there 70’s that were much healthier than many 20 year old spines.

How could that be, I hear you asking? If you were to take 26 wooden blocks and stack them very carefully, straight up one on top of the other, on a hard surface, it would be a pretty stable structure. Now take those same 26 blocks and pile them up haphazardly. Now what? The slightest tap could tumble the whole thing!

When I take an x-ray of a patient, I have them stand in what is called a “neutral” position. The patient is asked to look straight ahead. Place arms at your sides, in a relaxed, comfortable position. From a rear view we that your spinal column is made up of 26 individual bones and they should stack up neatly, one on top of the other in a straight line. The closer your spine is to lining up nice and neatly, the more stable your spine will be. When your spine is not as neatly lined up, more on the lines of haphazard, the less stable your spine becomes and the more physical stress you will put on joints between the bones that are not lining up properly.

Have you ever had the freedom to walk barefoot in the summer often enough to create calluses on the bottom of your feet? Callous tissue is a lot tougher than and has developed due to the physical stress / friction that has occurred to the bottom of your feet. It is your body’s way of protecting your feet.

When your spinal bones do not line up the joints start to develop this callous tissue. This is defined as the first stage in the development of arthritis. It may be developing for several years before it starts to break down the cartilage in your joints. The next step is for your body to lay down deposits of calcium in the joints. These are known more commonly as “Bones Spurs”.

Often at this point, when an x-ray shows bone spurs a person is told they have Arthritis. Also known as Osteoarthritis, Degenerative Joint Disease, and Degenerative Disc Disease (and possible in the near future AAA).

I simply refer to it as Spinal Decay. It is the result of poor spinal care. The bones that are misaligned need to be returned to their correct position. If this happens on a regular basis, the entire process of degenerating never begins.

What a chiropractic adjustment does is break up the callous tissue that has been forming in the misaligned joint. Each adjustment breaks up a little more and more of this tissue with each visit, always moving your bone back towards its proper position. The bone sours also begin to break down.

There is a portion of your Immune System called the Phagocyts that come along and gather the “broken up” fibrotic tissue and deposit them into the Lymphatic System, whose job it is to remove them from your body. (I couldn’t help adding a little extra anatomy. The human body just amazes me so much that I had to share.)

As your spine begins to go back to its normal position, there is less stress on your joints and your cells begin to regenerate. The process is very similar to when summer is over and you no longer walk barefoot, your feet lose their callous. Your skin will regenerate and become smooth.

Yes, what I am saying is that the damage caused by arthritis is reversible!

It is also important to know that if your spinal bones have degenerated so far that one has fused to the other, I am sorry to say, Chiropractors cannot help. It is too late. The bones are fused together and therefore cannot be adjusted. I will also emphasize that that is not the norm and I would encourage anyone who has been told they have any type of arthritis to have a chiropractor look at your x-rays. Our education for reading x-rays is much more extensive than other professions and the information we seek may be different than what another review may have been looking for.

So as you can see, if you take care of your spine…..if you keep it stacked up correctly, arthritis in your spine will never have a chance to begin. Even at age 100. The patients I see in their 70’s with healthier spines that kids in their 20’s have taken care of their spine. They recognize spinal health is as important as oral health. They have evolved with research and professional assistance to practice good spinal health.

I urge you and your family to do the same. See a chiropractor if you have been told you have Osteoarthritis or “age appropriate arthritis”. And please, have a chiropractor check your children to be sure that even though they jump and fall and bump, their spinal bones are in the right place!

If you have any questions that you would more information about, please don’t hesitate to call our office.

– Dr. Jim Schaffer

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