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What Is Arthr-IT IS?
Last review: 08/12/10  Dr. Ben Lerner
During my first quarter of graduate school, I had to take a course in medical terminology. As I found out early on, chiropractic school was not much different than medical school. We had to learn to diagnose and, interestingly enough, terminology was the key to diagnosis.

One of the first words we learned in that class was the term "-itis." "Itis" is Latin for "inflammation of." Other terminology included some words that probably sound familiar to you:

  • Arthro means joint.
  • Stoma means stomach.
  • Bursa is short for the fluid-filled sack in many joints.
  • Fibro means muscle fiber.
  • Mya means muscle
  • Cepha means head.
  • Tendons connect bones.
  • Ligaments connects muscles to bones.

My classmates and I often laughed as we learned these words, because we realized the vast majority of medical diagnoses weren't actually "diagnoses" at all, but merely turning the name into Latin or something fancy to impress our patients.

It's also done, not only to impress, but to make an impact on the patient so they'll be satisfied they have a diagnosis. So if you're told you have "arthr-itis," "tendon-itis," "burs-itis" or "stomat-itis," it means your joint, tendon, bursa sack or stomach hurts. Doctors can then follow medical protocol and write a prescription to give you drugs that will hopefully ease the pain.

"Algia" is another interesting one that means pain. Therefore, "Cephalgia" is a headache. The oft-used diagnosis, "Fibromyalgia," means muscle fiber pain.

There's one very serious problem with diagnosing: People feel they have a "condition." Everyone knows, once you have a "condition," you always have a "condition." It's like old phones or luggage that used to last forever. Well, the medical myth that "conditions" last forever has gone the way of the rotary phone too.

Arthritis, tendonitis and fibromyalgia are not death sentences. They're merely Latin terms, combined with fancy medical English phraseologies, for pains doctors don't understand and conditions for which they have no effective treatment. The key problem for the conventional medicine when it comes to aches, pains and degenerative issues like "arthr-itis": Most doctors are only diagnosing and treating side effects, not the true cause of the problem.

While certain types of arthritis can be attributed to extreme genetic weaknesses (there are more than 100 types of arthritis), the most common form conventional medicine treats -- they refer to it as "old age" arthritis -- is just a side effect. In reality, this type of arthritis is called "osteo-arthritis" ("osteo" means bone, so isn't that name hilarious!). When someone says his or her right knee has arthritis because, "I'm old," here's how I typically respond: "Really, how old is the other knee?" Properly functioning joints don't degenerate.

The Joint

Arthritis is an "inflamed joint." The joints are created by ends of bones meeting. At this point, they are cushioned by cartilage. The knee, hip, shoulder and other bigger joints have a fluid-filled sac called a bursa ("burs-itis"). The inner lining of the joint has a grease-like fluid called synovial fluid which reduces friction and allows for freedom of movement. If the joint begins to malfunction, this is often coupled by a loss of synovial fluid that would aggravate the bones meeting in the joint.

When joints become arthritic, swelling causes stiffness, rigidity and tissue damage. The body will warn you with pain if the joint moves beyond its present limits. It's a vicious cycle because, as mobility decreases, the muscles surrounding the joint also weaken and deteriorate, allowing for further damage to the joint. Eventually, you can have cartilage, ligament and tendon damage, as well as further bone erosion.

If these joints are functioning normally and well cared for, however, they just don't "itis."

I had an 82-year-old patient who had perfect vertebra, joints and discs in every part of his spine except for the second vertebrae. Miraculously, he had never had a single trauma his whole life, except one.

Because it had only been one, he remembered exactly where, when and how it happened. When he was 12-years-old, he had fallen off a chair and into an open door. He pointed and showed me the exact point of impact. You can guess where he pointed: To the second vertebra in his neck.

Degenerative Arthritis: Their Prevention and Cures

The good news about degenerative arthritis: Outside of an extreme genetic circumstance, it can be avoided and even reversed. Common medical wisdom is that if you have arthritis, essentially you're doomed. This could not be farther from the truth. The body does heal.

Arthritis is due to a physical or chemical irritant in a joint or the system. If the cause of this irritation is avoided, removed or corrected, your body has a chance to heal. There are endless stories of athletes and people who assumed their physical lives were over, only to reverse the effects of arthritis through a change in lifestyle or help from a chiropractor and go on to become champions.

So where do the problems begin?

Diet: The majority of carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates can aggravate and even cause degeneration. Excess acids in the system do exactly what they sound like they do: They deteriorate and damage cells. Additionally, the body's survival mechanism will attempt to neutralize these acids. (Calcium from bone is an exemplary acid neutralizer.)

Therefore, as you consume sugar, flours, grains and other refined carbohydrates, your blood stream ends up in acid overload and you actually give yourself degenerative arthritis. Dairy and caffeine are two additional major acid culprits. I believe Total Health Program, particularly following his plan to personalize it to your own body, is a great solution to avoiding and even reversing some of the damaging effects of diet-induced arthritis.

Furthermore, as Dr. Mercola emphasizes, fats play a major role in the inflammatory process. Excess omega-6 and omega-9 fats will add fuel to the fire of arthritis while taking a high quality fish oil helps to quench "the fire."

Because your level of hydration is also a major factor, water also puts out the fire of arthritis. Walking around on dry joints is just as deadly as it sounds.

Alignment and Balance: Think of the tires on your car. When they're misaligned, they wear unevenly. The musculoskeletal system operates the same way.

1. Muscular imbalance: The vast majority of people in today's culture have muscular imbalance. This occurs when the anterior muscles are tighter or stronger on one side of the body than they are on the other. This can happen when muscles in the back are tighter or stronger than those in the front or if the difference has to do with the right and the left. Most people have a combination of both.

This dysfunction can occur by sitting at a computer in such a way the shoulders are rolled forward, causing a tightening in the front of the neck, shoulders, chest, hamstrings and calves and a weakening of the rear shoulder, back, abdominal and leg muscles. This incredibly popular imbalance can create a host of degenerative conditions in the neck, back, knees and shoulders.

This also commonly occurs due to "handedness" or old injuries that have gone un-rehabilitated.

2. Postural Imbalance: If you stand in front of a mirror, close your eyes and march up and down, you will eliminate your righting reflex and see your true posture. When you open your eyes, you may be surprised at what you see.

Look at your hips and shoulders. Is one side higher than the other? Is one side rotated in front of the other? Are they more forward than backward?

Look at your head. Do you have "forward head syndrome," in which your chin is jutted out over your chest? Is your head rotated one direction more than the other or bent sideways to the left or to the right?

If you found postural imbalance, certain areas of your spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet are bearing more weight than others. These stress areas are going to break down very quickly compared to other areas of your body. For example, if your right hip is rotated forward and that hip is lower than the other, you are putting tremendous strain on the inside of the right knee, foot and ankle as well as certain areas of the lower spine. Therefore, you are very likely to have trouble or "arthritis" in those joints.

3. Joint misalignment: If the joints of the spine and extremities (arms, hands, legs and feet) are traumatized or overused in some way, they can get out of proper position. Again, using the tire metaphor, the points of imbalance will get overused and there will be wear and tear on the joints and discs.

Treatment of Muscle Imbalance, Posture and Joint Misalignment

The most common and disastrous treatment of these conditions I've described is medication. Medication masks the problem allowing you to go on causing massive further damage. Pain is not a warning to be ignored. Doing so is how people end up "old," in wheelchairs and on operating tables.

Structurally, the only person you can go to is a chiropractor. The job of a chiropractor is to balance posture and correct misalignment in the spine and other joints. See chiropractors who use posture and X-rays as two of the primary ways of determining treatment. These doctors should also be focused on correcting normal spinal curves.

Chiropractic rehabilitative exercises are actually designed to cause "regeneration," the reversal of arthritis and rehydration of discs. The "wobble" chair and standing cervical traction are the two greatest exercises I've seen to reverse the aging of joints.

Muscular imbalances can be detected by chiropractors as well as personal exercise trainers. I recommend seeing a professional who has been trained to identify and correct these conditions. To put it simply, stretching the weak side and strengthening the strong side is necessary here. The exercise and stretching program must be imbalanced to suit your imbalance.

Arthritis is not a terminal disease. If that's what you've been told, fire your doctor.

Dr. Ben Lerner, along with Dr. Greg Loman, owns Teach The World About Chiropractic, a Chiropractic training company. They have helped build the largest spinal correction clinics in the history of Chiropractic.

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

I met Dr. Lerner last year and am convinced he is an authentic leader in the health field. He is incredibly fit and nearly made it into the Olympics as a wrestler. His passion is to improve other people's health, and through his work with thousands of patients he discovered a proven pathway to build health instead of merely treating disease, which is a major part of the vision of this Web site.

His new book, Body By God: The Owner's Manual for Maximized Living, is an excellent resource for anyone looking to improve his or her health through the following principles:

  • Maximizing Your Life
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Stress Management
  • Time Management

Because Dr. Lerner is an athlete, he focuses much of his book on very specific exercises you can use to improve your physical health in a minimal amount of time. Dr. Lerner is a regular contributor to the newsletter, so be on the lookout for his insightful articles in future editions.

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