Anti-Inflammatories for Arthritis: Are the Rewards Worth the Risk?

Perhaps you have arthritis, whether it’s been labeled DJD (Degenerative Joint Disease) or Osteoarthritis. And, maybe you are taking anti-inflammatories and are considering the relative risks of chiropractic care and anti-inflammatory medications.

Osteoarthritis or DJD is the most common of all joint diseases and affects more than 32.5 million Amercians

The Most Common Treatment Lacks Research

The most common treatment for Osteoarthritis is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Looking at how often they are prescribed and recommended by physicians it’s natural to assume that’s based on strong scientific evidence that these drugs are beneficial. 

But, that’s not the case!

A study of 1,700 people with hip and knee arthritis determined that those people who routinely took NSAIDs for pain management experienced a 240% increase in the development of hip arthritis and a 320% increase in the development of knee arthritis when compared to people who rarely used these drugs. 

But, That’s Not All…Other Side Effects

It is well known, though obviously not often considered, that routine use of NSAIDs increases the risk of GI bleeds, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and even congestive heart failure. 

So, the most common medications prescribed for osteoarthritis not only worsen the arthritis but increase the risk of significant other health issues!

That should be the definition of insanity!

It hardly seems worth the risk, especially when there are extremely safe alternatives. 

What About Corticosteroids?

You might naturally assume that since oral steroids are used for very short periods of time that they might be associated with fewer potential side effects. When researchers looked at people who received short term steroid treatment. These people were all low risk young people in good overall health. 

What they found was gastrointestinal bleeds, sepsis and heart failure were very high. This is likely an underestimate given the young age and health of the study participants. Most people taking these medications for arthritis are significantly older and in poorer health. 

Injections of corticosteroids haven’t proved to be any safer. In a study at Boston University a follow-up on a little more than half of 459 people who were injected showed an 8% complication rate. 

What About the Arthritis?

When researchers followed up with patients who received corticosteroid injections they found that 44% experienced an accelerated progression of osteoarthritis. 

So, both NSAIDs and the more powerful corticosteroids have shown a risk for both a worsening of the arthritis along with very serious complications. 

Safer Options for Osteoarthritis

Let’s look at some safer options for osteoarthritis. OA and DJD cause pain and inflammation and that naturally often results in someone restricting their movement in an effort to limit pain. 

Unfortunately, it tends to work the other way around. The less you move the more restricted the joint gets and the more inflamed and painful it becomes. The very impetus to restrict your activity actually gets worse the more you limit your movement. 

The purpose of joints is to allow for movement. If you take a perfectly healthy joint and restrict its movement it will become stiff and painful. The solution seems obvious…

Restore and maintain as much natural motion as possible. This will help reduce pain as well as help lubricate the joint surfaces. So, how should you encourage this joint motion?

Chiropractic Care: is designed to restore joint alignment and motion in the knees, hips, pelvis and spine. Often restoring motion to the joints adjacent to the arthritic joint(s) helps reduce stress to the arthritis. 

If you can maintain joint mobility your joints will experience less wear and tear and also have significantly less inflammation and pain. Even if you have a significantly degenerated joint that will need replacing, chiropractic care can offer you relief and prolong the life of the joint. 

Chiropractic also helps bring the body back into greater balance. What do I mean by this? Your hips or pelvis, your shoulders, and your head should be level from the front or behind. Looking at you from the side your head should be over your shoulders (not in front), your shoulders over your hips, and your hips over your ankles. 

Any imbalance puts greater stress on your joints, especially knees, hips, pelvis, and low back; as you move and walk. Restoring balance reduces the stress to your joints and minimizes the uneven pressure to your arthritic joints. 

Exercise: Gentle exercise encourages motion, reduces inflammation. The type and intensity of exercise will depend on the arthritic joint and the degree of arthritis. Walking, swimming, and yoga are gentle forms of exercise that encourage movement through the entire body. 

Arthritis develops as a result of trauma causing imbalance over many years or simply the imbalance that puts uneven stress on the joints. With arthritis comes ever increasing pain and loss of motion. It’s natural to limit movement as arthritis develops but the restricted motion actually causes increased pain when you do move, leading you to further limit movement and experience increasing pain. 

When you have any challenge with your body I find it helpful to think about what that part, system or organ does. In the case of arthritis it involves joints and the purpose of joints is to provide motion. Anything you can do to encourage motion will tend to limit the pain you experience as well as slow the progression of the arthritis.

Bill Berkowitz, DC

Bringing more than 3 decades of practice experience, Dr. Bill Berkowitz focuses on balancing and corrective care, applying his expertise to provide patients with predictable, repeatable and measurable results.

Dr. Bill consistently strives to enhance the well-being of his patients by addressing the root imbalances of their problems and promoting optimal balance, alignment, and function of the spine and nervous system. His commitment to delivering corrective chiropractic care has earned him a reputation for excellence among both colleagues and patients alike. 

Bill’s wealth of knowledge and experience has allowed him to develop a nuanced understanding of the human body and its intricate connections. With each adjustment, he supports the body in returning to a state of balance that goes beyond mere symptom relief, focusing instead on long-term correction for his patients’ well-being. 

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