Chiropractic Considerations for Arthritis

Dec 4, 2023 | Patients

by Brent Hearn • 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 53.2 million people have arthritis. That’s 21.2% of all adults. One in five—slightly more than one in five—deal with some form of the disease. 

Those numbers are staggering. 

You may be familiar with some of the more well-known forms of the disease, such as osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and psoriatic arthritis (PsA), but there are more than 100 forms of arthritis and related diseases (including gout and fibromyalgia). The various forms of arthritis cause pain in a host of ways—and there are many different ways to treat that pain.

If you suffer from arthritis, you may have wondered at some point if chiropractic is a viable option for treatment. The answer in many cases is “yes,” but that “yes” comes with some caveats. Let’s talk about a few important things to remember when it comes to treating arthritis with chiropractic.

Chiropractic can complement other arthritis treatments.

Chiropractic is often one spoke in the wheel of a comprehensive course of treatment for a variety of ailments, and this is certainly true with arthritis. 

Treating autoimmune diseases like RA and PsA often requires medication to control a patient’s overactive immune response. In most cases, chiropractors cannot write prescriptions, so to rely on chiropractic alone would deprive someone of the full range of treatment and relief available. (If you’re suffering from extreme joint pain that can severely impact your quality of life, you’ll want everything in the treatment tool belt at your disposal.) In these instances, chiropractic can still serve as a complement to medical intervention rather than a replacement.

Sometimes chiropractic adjustments are off-limits.

If a patient is experiencing active inflammation (as can happen during a flare-up), a chiropractic adjustment could be very painful—and even dangerous. When that joint inflammation is caused by an autoimmune disease like RA or PsA, the disease and the medications used to treat it can cause osteoporosis. In such a case, the pressure from an adjustment could cause a fracture. A fused spine or osteoarthritis in the back or neck are also disqualifiers for an adjustment.

As you may know, however (possibly from being avid readers of this very blog), there’s a lot more to chiropractic than just neck- and back-cracking. There are still chiropractic treatment options for arthritis that don’t require spinal manipulation, including ultrasound, electrotherapy, low-level laser treatment, and infrared sauna rooms.

Chiropractic can play a role in treating secondary pain.

Even when chiropractic adjustment isn’t an option in one area of the body (whether due to active inflammation or another reason), an adjustment elsewhere might still bring some relief. 

In many cases, pain or stiffness in one part of the body causes us to compensate—or even overcompensate—elsewhere, causing pain there too. Chiropractic adjustment to treat secondary pain brought on by arthritis may bring some relief. (If you’re already dealing with arthritis pain, you’ll certainly welcome respite where you can find it—including relief from any “bonus” pain.)

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who are fighting the good fight against arthritis, talk to your chiropractor about your diagnosis and symptoms. They’ll be able to discuss the treatment options at their disposal, and you may find that their arsenal to fight the disease is more formidable than you expected.


Arthritis Foundation: Chiropractic Care for Arthritis

Arthritis Foundation: How Arthritis Hurts

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Arthritis Factsheet

WebMD: Chiropractic Care for Joint Problems: What to Know