Doctors Should Stop Blaming
Every Ache and Pain on “Arthritis"
By Dr. Donald Liebell
Is "Arthritis" the same thing as "Degenerative Joint Disease," or "Osteoarthritis?" Is taking arthritis medicine your only option? Does Degenerative Joint Disease always cause pain?" These are all important questions. But what if you've been told your pain is "age-appropriate" or arthritis? What if you've been told your pain is caused by a degenerative disc or joint? Does this mean you have to live with the pain?
I estimate that around ninety percent of the patients I've seen in my practice have had some degree of arthritic degeneration and bone spurs in their neck, back and other joints. Most of them have me that a previous doctor has diagnosed their pain as being from "arthritis." This is a highly questionable conclusion. The mere presence of arthritic "spurs" around a joint, is simply NOT a good enough clue that it is the true cause of the pain.
Arthritis defined: The word "arthritis" literally means JOINT INFLAMMATION. The question one must ask is: "Is arthritis the same thing as a bone spur, or in the case of the spine, degenerative disc disease? Hmm... Let's use some logic to figure this out. We need the next definition...
Osteoarthritis: This is the most common type of arthritis. Traditionally, the term is used interchangeably with DEGENERATIVE JOINT DISEASE. Signs of osteoarthritis are deterioration of bones and cartilage that make up joints. This applies to joints throughout the body, including the neck (cervical spine). There are also dozens of other types of arthritis. One is RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS. This is far less common, but it's much more destructive and crippling. It is an inflammatory disease that affects primarily the joints of the hands and feet. Other arthritic disorders, known as rheumatic disease include: GOUT, AKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS, LUPUS, PSORIATIC ARTHRITIS, ENTEROPATHIC ARTHRITIS, and D.I.S.H. DISEASE. You should also know that ARTHRITIC conditions are properly diagnosed primarily by x-ray findings, blood tests, and also physical exam and history... NOT MERELY BY THE PRESENCE OF PAIN.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's look at a real, live example of DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE... Or is it a case of "arthritis?" You be the judge!
Case Study: Louie, Age 91
Let’s consider the case of Louie. His neck x-ray is the one on the left.
Compare his neck to the one on the right (normal healthy cervical spine).
For many decades Louie has had these severe bone spurs and degenerated
spinal discs. His neck is abnormally straight and tilted forward. By any
doctor's objective evaluation, Louie's neck is a mess! It looks ghastly on the
inside. If Louie suffered from chronic neck pain, it would be no surprise for
any doctor to tell him: “Well Louie, you have severe degenerative disc disease
and spurs the size of Alaska… no wonder you’re in pain… you’re only choice is
surgery, painkillers, steroid injections or just deal with it.”
But here's the catch: Louie's neck DOESN'T hurt! He does not take pain medication! He was 86 when I took this x-ray.
“At age 91, my spine is loaded with arthritic degeneration—bone spurs
almost as big as the bones themselves… but NO PAIN! Most doctors would
look at my neck x-rays and say "I can't believe your neck doesn't hurt...
It just goes to show you that arthritis isn't all it's cracked up to be" - Louis M.
It is simply INACCURATE to blame neck pain on degenerative disc disease, commonly called neck arthritis. Doctors appear to diagnose arthritis as the cause of pain way too often. The lesson to be learned here is that if a doctor has told you that the x-rays show arthritis or degenerative disc disease; this doesn't mean that it's the cause of your pain. It also doesn't mean there's no physical treatment that can help it. And it doesn't mean that you have to take arthritis medicine to get out of pain. You don't have to do anything. I say you shouldn't until you've really explored all your treatment options. Plus, if you've been discouraged by a doctor regarding alternative medicine for arthritis pain, you might want to consider that mainstream medical practitioners may not have any experience helping arthritis sufferers WITHOUT drugs...
Mainstream arthritis treatment boomed with the FDA's 1999 approval of Vioxx. But then, FDA analysts estimated that Vioxx caused between 88,000 and 139,000 heart attacks, 30 to 40 percent of which were probably fatal, in the five years the drug was on the market. Merck Pharmaceuticals withdrew Vioxx from the market in September of 2004. They had sales revenue of $2.5 BILLION the year prior to the withdrawal.
Is this acceptable health care? You be the judge.
There are many drug-free and non-surgical treatments used throughout the world that help. I use many of them in my practice. There are many great ways to treat the same condition. MY ADVICE: Run for the hills from any health care professional that tells you THEIR treatment is the ONLY option. True emergency medical situations are of course, the exception to this rule. Let's face it - there are ECONOMIC motivations for diagnosing and treating arthritis. Before the deadly drug, Vioxx was mercifully removed from the market (over 50,000 people died from its use!), it generated many billions of dollars in sales annually.
I think that blaming pain simply on ARTHRITIS is a big fat COP-OUT! Millions of people suffer from neck pain due to treatable, STRUCTURAL IMBALANCE of the neck. Mechanical and structural imbalances, and dysfunction of the joints of the neck are treatable causes of neck pain. Chronic infection, such as Lyme disease can be the cause of arthritis throughout the body. Joint inflammation can also be the result of dietary and bio-energetic imbalances that must be addressed. These imbalances can exist WITH or WITHOUT the presence of degenerative discs and bone spurs (osteophytes).
FACT: There are people who have NO arthritic degeneration, but suffer neck pain.
FACT: There are people who have LOTS of arthritic degeneration, but feel FINE.
This is a matter of simple logic: one MIGHT have pain due to degeneration. Its mere presence does NOT provide sufficient evidence that it is the cause of PAIN. Louie's case is one of countless examples. It's not rocket science. If your neck hurts, and a doctor shows you signs of degeneration on an x-ray (like Louie's), it's inaccurate to automatically blame the degeneration on the pain. In my colleagues and my experience, misalignment of the ATLAS vertebra (top bone of the neck), which seldom becomes arthritic, is one of the major causes of neck pain, and in my opinion should be examined FIRST, by a qualified doctor, in all cases of neck pain... BEFORE drugs are prescribed... BEFORE physical therapy is prescribed... BEFORE surgery is considered. All possible causes of neck pain must be investigated. Many medical disciplines may be necessary to solve the mystery of your pain. I think the evidence is clear that arthritis is often a weak explanation; one that is more like GIVING UP than a solution to the pain.
-Dr. Donald Liebell
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