Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a painful and sometimes disabling autoimmune disease that can slowly destroy the synovial joints. You may want to consider adding chiropractic medicine to an overall treatment plan to improve disease progression and maintain physical functioning. There are ways to safely add chiropractic medicine to your treatment plan.
Develop Reasonable Expectations
Chiropractic medicine is not designed to cure RA. Your chiropractor's goal is to help improve function, especially in large joints, and give you better range of motion. In addition to improving range of motion, gentle manipulation can help decrease prolonged joint stiffness that is characteristic of RA.
To help chiropractic medicine work for your needs, your chiropractor should be one component of an overall treatment plan. Other components of your treatment plan should include medications to help reduce inflammation and slow down the progression of the disease. When the underlying disease is under control, there is less risk of aggravating any one joint with manual manipulation, and you can comfortably engage in treatment. Since it is potentially damaging to perform any type of therapy on an actively flaring joint, disease control is imperative before utilizing other treatments.
Have Baseline Imaging Tests
Your chiropractor may order imaging tests before they develop a treatment plan, or they may request records from your rheumatologist. It is important for a chiropractor to have an idea of the way RA has affected your joints and soft tissues before they begin any form of manual manipulation. Some concerns your chiropractor may have are instability of a joint due to damage of tendons or ligaments, which could be exacerbated with direct manipulation. Another benefit of recent imaging tests is to identify bones that may have signs of decreased bone density. The inflammatory processes associated with RA and long-term steroid use can cause osteopenia or osteoporosis to develop. This makes bones more fragile and prone to fractures or breaks, even when doing routine tasks.
Be Candid About Neck And Back Problems
When RA affects the neck and back, the results can be disastrous, such as subluxation of the cervical spine and subsequent paralysis. Since these areas may be weakened or brittle due to inflammation, it is imperative that you inform your chiropractor about previous or current flare-ups in your neck and back. To be safe, your chiropractor will likely avoid doing any direct manipulation of the neck and spinal column. Your chiropractor may try doing light manipulation in the neck and back to help loosen tight muscles that can exacerbate pain.
Integrate Other Chiropractic Techniques
Depending on the chiropractor you choose, they may have additional options beyond manual manipulation that can help with RA symptoms. One option may be the use of ultrasound to penetrate the soft tissues of a joint and reduce pain. The sound waves produced by ultrasound may reduce swelling of the joint, thereby decreasing stress on ligaments and tendons that support the joint and aid in its function. Using additional techniques to reduce swelling can make manipulation of the joint less painful, and the joint will be less likely to experience injury during manipulation or everyday use.
Another approach your chiropractor may incorporate is the addition of cold therapy with lasers. The cold temperature can reduce swelling, and since it is a targeted approach over traditional cold therapy, you are less likely to experience throbbing or aching in the joint from the cold temperature.
Having RA does not mean you cannot incorporate chiropractic medicine into an overall treatment strategy, but you must take extra precautions to protect fragile bones, joints, and soft tissues. By finding a chiropractor who has experience treating patients with RA, you can engage in a different therapeutic approach with a lower risk of injury. For more information, contact a chiropractor at a location like Vanderloo Chiropractic.