Chiropractic care and joint injury treatments

At Embrace Wellness Chiropractor Center, we have come across many patients with joint injuries whether from a car accident, got hurt on the job, from exercising or just lifting something heavy at home.  These activities can lead to joint injuries such as the neck, back, shoulders, knees or ankles.  These can be very painful and debilitating, and it may even lead to missed workdays.  That is why it is important to be aware of the treatments for joint injury.  With the right treatment, most joint injuries will heal well.  Below are some of the most common treatments for injured joints as well as how chiropractic care can help and speed your recovery.

Changing how you do activities:  If your pain has slowly increased over time, stop and figure out what you’re doing that might be causing the problem.  Then stop the activity or change how you do it.  The chiropractor can provide you with ideas how you might be able to modify the activity for best results.

The Rice method:  This is used for acute injuries.  It stands for: Rest the joint.  Ice the joint (first 2-3 days after an injury).  Compress the swelling (with wraps or bandages).  Elevate the joint (above the heart level).

Protection: Joints may need a period of protection, support, or rest after an injury.  Braces, splints, slings or crutches may be used to protect the joint and help it heal.  Most chiropractor has these support products at hand and can determine if you need them.

Mobilization: if a joint is immobile for too long, though, it can become weak and stiff.  That’s why it’s important to start moving the joint as soon as you can.  This includes doing gentle movements to increase a joint’s range of motion.  Chiropractors are experts in joint mobilization, and manual adjustments can also be a gentle and effective treatment for acute injuries.  The chiropractor will do a history and exam before any treatments and making sure you don’t have any fracture before adjusting your joint.

Cold therapy (ice): Icing a joint can ease pain and swelling.  Apply ice right after an injury.  You can ice 3-4 times a day for the first 2-3 days.  To safely ice a joint, follow these steps:

  1. Wet a thin towel with water.
  2. Wring out the excess water.
  3. Wrap the wet towel around an ice pack or a plastic bag of crushed ice.
  4. Lie down and place the ice pack on the joint for 10-15 minutes.

Note: Do not put the ice pack directly on your skin.  And never leave ice on for longer than 20 minutes.

Heat therapy: Heat increases circulation and swelling, so its not good to use heat in the first 2-3 days after an injury.  But after the swelling goes down, heat can relax tense muscles and reduce pain.  To safely apply moist heat to a joint, follow these steps:

  1. Wet a thin towel with water.
  2. Wring out the excess water.
  3. Microwave a hot pack or fill a hot water bottle with very hot water. Wrap the wet towel around it.
  4. Lie down and place the hot pack on the joint for 15-20 minutes, several times a day.

Note: Do not put the hot pack on your skin or leave it on for longer than 20 minutes.  Never lie on top of an electric heat pad or fall asleep with it.

Exercise: Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your joints.  It can reduce joint pain and help keep your joints healthy.  Talk to your chiropractor about an exercise program that will support your joint health.

Other therapies:  Acupuncture, massage therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy can also ease pain.  Nutritional and naturopathic services can also address dietary concerns and natural treatments.  Medications, both over the counter and prescription, may also help reduce pain and inflammation.  Surgery is usually a last resort for joint pain from repair of one part of a joint to full joint replacement.  Talk to your chiropractor about referral for these therapies and services.