The Structural System
Lesson 14, Page 7 of 16

Hot packs are not a part of the treatment regimen for an acute strain or sprain.


Fibromyalgia, also known as fibromyositis and myofascial pain syndrome, refers to a chronic condition of unknown cause resulting in pain in the fibrous tissues, muscles, ligaments and tendons. It is characterized by achy pain, tenderness and stiffness of the muscles, particularly those of the occiput (the base of the head), neck, shoulders, back and thighs. The pain is aggravated by overuse, straining, and by stress. The condition occurs mainly in women. Fibromyalgia is often associated with depression, sleeping problems, and chronic fatigue. In fact, most experts consider fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome to be the same condition. It is also sometimes associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Many health experts believe that many, if not most, cases of fibromyalgia are caused by an underactive thyroid gland. (For more on fibromyalgia see: Fibromyalgia.)


Arthritis (arthr-, "joint" + -itis, "inflammation") is a non-specific term referring to any type of joint inflammation. There are many different types of arthritis. The three most common ones are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.


Osteoarthritis (osteo-, "bone" + arthritis) is by far the most common type of arthritis. It refers to the process of degeneration to the joints caused by wear and tear. In fact, another name for osteoarthritis is degenerative joint disease (DJD). Although some degeneration to the joints is considered normal due to the normal wear and tear that comes with age, there are certain factors which can speed up the process, including excess weight, inadequate or improper nutrition, and joint misalignments.

The symptoms of osteoarthritis are stiffness and pain in the joints, especially upon arising in the morning, with some relief after the body has "warmed up" or moved around a bit. The joints most commonly affected are the weight bearing joints, particularly the spine, hips and knees. X-rays of the affected joints reveal decreased joint spaces, sclerosis (hardening of the bone near the joint) and sometimes osteophyte formation or "bone spurs." Osteoarthritis of the spinal column, or spine, also results in thinning of the discs, which can result in a loss of height. The degenerative changes to the discs and bones caused by osteoarthritis of the spinal column can also result in painful nerve impingement where the nerve roots are pinched where they exit the spine. Osteoarthritis is the type of arthritis most likely to be helped with chiropractic care. There are also many things that we can do nutritionally that may help the condition. We will discuss these in a later section of this lesson.

Medical treatment for osteoarthritis generally involves a class of drugs known as non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, such as aspirin, Indocin, ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Aleve, Nuprin and Motrin) and most prescription drugs for arthritis. These drugs cause gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers, and kidney damage resulting in 2,000 deaths and 20,000 hospitalizations each year in the U.S. alone. But even worse, research has shown that by interfering at the cellular level with the metabolism responsible for rebuilding and repairing cartilage, NSAIDS actually cause degradation of joint cartilage causing further degeneration to the joints. In other words, while NSAIDS are providing temporary relief, they are actually slowly making the condition worse! The medical solution for this, of course, is to mask the pain with NSAIDS until the degeneration becomes severe enough to justify joint replacement surgery. As we shall see later, many people have discovered a better way!

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis, according to current medical thinking, is an autoimmune disease of unknown cause where the inflammation and pain in the joints is caused when the body's own immune system attacks the joints producing an inflammatory reaction. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur in the young, as well as in adults, and seems to be related to heredity. Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as the "crippling arthritis," can result in deformaties of the affected joints, most commonly the hands. Like osteoarthritis, the pain and stiffness are worse upon arising in the morning. But unlike osteoarthritis, which can be asymmetrical (one sided), rheumatoid arthritis is symmetrical (occurs equally on both sides of the body.) Rheumatoid arthritis occurs in approximately 1% of the population, whereas osteoarthritis occurs in nearly 100% of the population that lives long enough for wear and tear to become evident.

Recently it has been discovered that many individuals with RA have a low grade infection in the joints—an infection which can easily be missed by routine medical diagnostic procedures. Some professionals believe that this may, in fact, be a primary causative factor in the disease. But whether such an infection is a cause or a consequence of RA has yet to be discovered.


Gout is a type of arthritis caused by uric acid deposits in the joints. The joints most likely to be affected are the great toes, although the insteps, ankles, knees, wrists and elbows are also common sites. Initially, only one joint may be affected, but in later attacks other joints may be involved as well. Gout is closely associated with diet. Attacks often occur after overindulgence in rich foods and/or after consumption of alcohol. Gout is common in alcoholics. If not treated the uric acid deposits can occur in the kidneys causing kidney damage.

What is the most common form of arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis

(Select the best answer and click on the "Continue" button.)