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Do Untreated Joint Injuries Cause Osteoarthritis?

Joint injuries like sprains, strains, and dislocations are common among young and elderly individuals alike. Generally a result of overuse or acute trauma, joint damage often begins as a small (and seemingly insignificant) complication that can compound into a chronic condition known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. Although joint health is essential for a long and healthy life, few realize the need to correct and manage the effects of joint damage.

How Does Joint Damage Progress?

Whether joint damage begins with sudden knee trauma in a skiing accident or years of overuse at work, the injury progresses when scar tissue is created during the healing process. Left untreated, the injuries can cause bigger issues like osteoarthritis.

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When an injury occurs, soft tissue is stretched and torn. To heal the damage, the body quickly repairs damaged ligaments, cartilage, and muscle fibers with scar tissue. Unfortunately, scar tissue doesn’t have the same strength or flexibility as healthy, intact tissue. Its inferiority slowly causes a loss of mobility along with chronic pain ranging from mild to severe. This stiff aching eventually forces the joint to find comfort in abnormal, awkward movements that cause extra wear and tear on the body and further encourage degenerative changes.

Long Term Effects of Joint Degeneration

Early signs of joint degeneration include pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion. Left untreated, these symptoms have the potential to impact more than just the affected joints. Let’s take a look at some of the specific long-term side effects of degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis.

Stiffness & Limited Motion in the Affected Area

A limited range of motion is a common side effect of joint degeneration. As we mentioned earlier, over time this stiffness can contribute to the progression of degenerative changes throughout the body. Abnormal movement patterns that develop as a result of limitations in one joint put undue stress on other joints in the body, causing additional issues.

Decreased Quality of Life

Although some joint injuries may appear harmless at first, their severity becomes a painful reality once they inhibit one’s quality of life. Advanced degenerative conditions can cause extreme discomfort, making it difficult to enjoy activities like family vacations and outdoor recreation. These new physical limitations often cause patients with degenerative conditions to battle with indirect side effects like depression and anxiety.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain associated with degenerative joint disease is a product of inflammation as well as abnormal stress on the joint structures. Chronic pain contributes to a multitude of health issues including the inability to sleep, weight gain, loss of muscle mass, balance issues, and dependence on pharmaceuticals, among others – along with the many risks that go along with these conditions.

Does Chiropractic Treatment Help?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly used to treat degenerative joint disease; however they do not stop the disease’s progression. In fact, many health experts believe that these drugs may actually promote the advancement of joint degeneration. Because regular chiropractic treatments are a drug-free way to prevent and/or slow joint degeneration, many patients now choose to put their health in the hands of chiropractors rather than pharmaceutical companies.

Joint damage can have long-term side effects on your physical health and quality of life. Our founder and chiropractor, Dr. Pinto, experienced this reality first-hand prior to studying chiropractic medicine. After enjoying an active lifestyle for years, the compounded effect of spinal trauma at a young age and sport-related injuries as a young adult suddenly caught up and he found himself struggling with severe low back pain. It was his life-changing visit to a chiropractor that made him realize the importance of addressing the underlying causes of his pain, ultimately leading him to become a doctor of chiropractic.

The bottom line is that left untreated, seemingly minor injuries can cause degenerative changes like osteoarthritis. Don’t let the effects of today’s afflictions put a stop to your future – schedule an appointment with us for an evaluation today.