05/11/2023 by Dr. Goldi Jacques-Maynes
It’s a Joint Effort: Chiropractic & Self-Care for Managing Osteoarthritis
When you've got degenerative joint disease/osteoarthritis in your hip, it can be hard to walk, sit or even sleep. It's an extremely uncomfortable condition. DJD can also impact your mental health, making you feel anxious, depressed and isolated.
The good news is that chiropractic treatment can make a significant difference in managing your DJD symptoms. In fact, regular chiropractic combined with self-care for DJD can significantly improve your overall quality of life.
What is degenerative joint disease, aka osteoarthritis?
DJD is a painful degeneration of joint tissues, commonly caused by chronic repetitive motion. Over time, your joints can start to wear down due to inflammation and structural damage. When you’ve got DJD, the tiniest amount of trauma can trigger inflammation.
This cycle of joint damage and inflammation can eventually lead to the breakdown of your cartilage. Cartilage helps joints move smoothly and acts as a cushion, so when it breaks down, you’re going to have a hard time moving easily. You can develop DJD in any joint, but it's commonly found in the hips.
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease in the hip?
One of our female patients, in her late 60s, is very active, participating weekly in yoga and Qi Gong. One day, she began noticing stiffening and tenderness in her right hip, especially with activity. The pain and discomfort made it difficult for her to keep up with her fitness activities and stay active. A DJD diagnosis usually begins with similar symptoms.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis/DJD of the hip cause physical, psychological and social difficulties.
Physical symptoms of osteoarthritis in the hip include:
- Limited range of motion in the affected joint
Psychologically, you may experience:
- Irritability from chronic pain
Socially, you may feel isolated from friends and family due to your limited mobility. Many of our patients feel sad and frustrated that they are not able to participate in activities—like beach walks, playing with their grandchildren and gardening—with their friends and family due to pain and limited mobility.
How do chiropractors diagnose arthritis/degenerative joint disease?
For the above mentioned woman in her 60s, we referred her for imaging at her orthopedist office. We discovered she had degenerative changes at her hip joint.
We work with your care team to diagnose you properly.
As we examine you, we may notice a visible limp, which can indicate an issue with your joint. To confirm our suspicions, we generally recommend imaging—usually an X-ray. Imaging allows us to see if there are any degenerative changes occurring. These changes can include decreased joint space, bony spurs or sclerosis.
If degeneration signs appear on the X-ray, we can confidently diagnose you with arthritis in that joint. If we suspect a type of arthritis that may have inflammatory origins, we may also recommend blood work. We are always happy to work with your primary care physician for testing, diagnosis and care.
How does chiropractic treat arthritis/degenerative joint disease?
For our older female patient mentioned above, we prescribed gentle adjustments and muscle work surrounding the affected joint. With regular care, she is able to continue her active lifestyle with more comfort and ease. She comes in once a month for care, sometimes more if she has a flare-up of symptoms.
If you're experiencing stiffness or discomfort in a joint, seek diagnosis and care as soon as possible.
Our patients who seek treatment early tend to have better outcomes.
If you've had joint surgery, starting rehab exercises and gentle mobilizations as soon as possible can improve your chances of regaining full mobility. We always recommend that you stay as active as possible, and that you incorporate exercise and stretching into your daily routine.
For patients with arthritic joints, we find that the Activator is a great tool. Its adjustable-force-generation allows us to apply as gentle a force as needed on an arthritic joint and/or osteopenic bone.
We also perform joint distraction and mobilization, using a Mulligan strap or our body weight. This can feel great for patients with arthritic ball-and-socket joints, like the hip or shoulder.
How long does it take for DJD to respond to chiropractic care?
While we can’t restore the cartilage that you've already lost, we can help minimize the negative effects of your DJD. Our treatment goals will likely include: reducing the DJD induced inflammation, decreasing your pain and increasing your joint mobility.
The length and frequency of chiropractic treatment will vary from patient to patient. We’ll come up with the best treatment plan for the severity of your condition and your individual needs.
Remember, the more you participate in care that promotes easier mobility, the less pain and stiffness you’ll experience over your lifetime.
What’s the best self-care for osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease?
Certain lifestyle modifications can help immensely when you’ve got DJD in your hip.
Keeping your joints mobile through exercise, stretching and adjustments can keep you moving for life.
Self-care for DJD to help reduce symptoms includes:
- Regular exercise and mobility work
- Weight management. Losing 5% of your body weight can be very helpful to decrease pressure distribution thru the joints
- Healthy diet, specifically an anti-inflammatory diet
Mindfulness strategies can also help you manage your pain and anxiety. You should consider:
- Deep breathing
Getting support from friends, family or a support group can also really help you navigate the challenges of living with this chronic condition.
Does your hip hurt?
There are chiropractic treatment options available to help you manage your hip pain and improve your mobility—as well as your quality of life! Our chiropractors here in Aptos can help you explore your treatment options and get back to participating in life again. Make your appointment online, and come see us! We’ll get you moving and feeling better as fast as we can!
Interested in learning more about conditions of the hip?
Read up on hip conditions, and our most recommended treatments, here.