By Dr. Aksa Ahmed
Arthritis is a chronic condition that affects the lives of more than six million Canadians. This term describes a group of more than 100 diseases characterized by inflammation in the joints or other areas of the body. Some of the various symptoms arthritis causes include limited mobility, stiffness and joint swelling.
Arthritis is one of the most common chronic health conditions, affecting about one in five Canadians, aged 15 and older.
While there is currently no cure, chiropractic care is one of the many proven approaches individuals can use to manage their arthritic pain. When chiropractic care is combined with physician-led medical management, it’s possible for individuals suffering from arthritis to live full, active lives without noticing much limitation in their daily activities.
Chiropractic Care for Patients Living with Arthritis
I practice in an outpatient chiropractic clinic in the Rheumatology Department at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. My area of focus is spine, muscle and joint care for individuals living with arthritis. While a good portion of our patients are above the age of 50 we are happy to see individuals of all ages.
When I see a patient at our clinic, I start by assessing their symptoms and physical presentation from arthritis and other inflammatory disorders. I then work to create a treatment plan to address their current symptoms and limitations. The patient and I work together to help develop strategies to facilitate lifestyle modifications and goals to help them return to activities they enjoy.
Professional Passion Led by Personal Experience
Like many chiropractors, my professional journey has been shaped by my personal experience. Years ago, I suffered an ankle injury while playing soccer that required medical care. The physiotherapist who was treating me worked in a clinic with other health care professionals, including a chiropractor.
Upon realizing chiropractic care could also help my recovery, I made an appointment and found the treatment did indeed help. The chiropractor treated me with an unparallel level of expertise, kindness and patience. He personalized a rehabilitation plan for me that had me back to doing the activities I love. I became fascinated with the profession.
Fast forward to my post-secondary years in 2015, when I completed my Doctor of Chiropractic degree at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC). My first experience with a chiropractor allowed me to have an interaction with a specialist who was dedicated to not only my recovery, but also improving my overall quality of life. I encompass the same approach in my clinic.
In this profession, there are many areas of practice and specialities one can pursue. While I was completing my degree, I was involved in arthritis research and developed a passion for it. After practising in a clinic for a few years, I decided to pursue the Advanced Clinician Practitioner in Arthritis Care certification offered through the University of Toronto. This specialization helps me provide even better care for the patients I see today.
Providing Patient-Centred Chiropractic Care for Arthritis
At our clinic, we most often see individuals dealing with various conditions, such as degenerative disc/joint disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, spinal stenosis, spondyloarthropathies and radiculopathies (also known as “pinched nerves”) secondary to disc herniations (sometimes called “sciatica”). Despite this common thread, every person is different. To best meet their needs, we take an individualized approach in supporting each patient.
Our chiropractic treatment typically involves a combination of manual therapy and exercises, as well as education and self-management strategies to help patients care for their condition on their own. Dealing with a chronic condition like arthritis can be overwhelming. To help make life more manageable, we often provide ergonomic advice and information about assistive devices that can help our patient with mobility and activity.
We also discuss coping strategies, such as mindfulness meditation and guided imagery, to help patients manage the stress and anxiety that can come with their diagnosis.
Our clinic is passionate about providing evidence-based patient-centred care but also has a robust focus on academic research.
Staying Active and Staying Positive
I regularly educate my patients about the importance of maintaining a positive mindset and active lifestyle. The way individuals view their condition is critical to their overall health and well-being. This is particularly true with a chronic condition like arthritis, which they will have for the rest of their lives.
While they may not be able to do all the activities they could previously, there is still so much they can enjoy. Having a chronic condition doesn’t mean giving up doing the things you love! Sometimes, it just means finding new ways to do things and a chiropractor can show you how.
Recently one of my patients, an avid golfer, came to see me because he felt worse after golfing due to spinal stenosis. However, because he understood his pain, he knew it didn’t mean he had to stop golfing. His discomfort meant we had to find a new strategy that would still enable him to play the sport he loves with appropriate modifications.
We worked on his swing, reviewed standing and walking posture, discussed use of a cart when necessary and found a way for him to continue playing without aggravating his pain. With this new knowledge, he was quickly back out on the course, happier than ever. His positive mindset and willingness to try new techniques was, in many ways, the most important part of treatment.
Collaborating and Connecting
The clinic where I work includes many medical doctors and other health care professionals. It’s invaluable to have access to one another’s expertise. We each bring different specializations, knowledge, background and skills to the table. I strongly believe this collaborative approach is the future of health care. It’s what allows us to provide truly optimal patient care.
In addition to my clinical practice, I enjoy connecting with seniors at local community centres. We talk about their conditions and concerns, which may include back pain and other issues, as well as arthritis, that chiropractic care can help. Most importantly, we discuss how they can stay active and continue to live healthy, enjoyable lives. Health care is so much more than what we see in the hospital!
For millions of Canadians, arthritis can impact their ability to enjoy freedom of movement, productive work, restful sleep and an existence free of unnecessary pain.
Being proactive and taking charge of your health is important. If you or someone you know may benefit from chiropractic care, I encourage you to explore this option. At our clinic, we see many patients who are referred by their medical doctors or the hospital. We also see individuals without a referral, who find us online and come seeking help because in Ontario, you may visit a chiropractor without a referral from a medical doctor or nurse practitioner.
Information from the Ontario Chiropractic Association