Early Onset Arthritis & Chiropractic

Our chiropractic blog offers pain-relief tips, wellness advice, and more to keep you healthy and happy.

There are many different types of arthritis. The most common type is called osteoarthritis. This is also known as degenerative arthritis. Early onset arthritis means that osteoarthritis occurs prematurely or at an earlier age typically expected or seen. Some symptoms of early-onset arthritis are back or neck pain, joint pain, stiffness, and loss of range of motion.


Surprising Warning Signs

You may have Early Onset Arthritis if:

  • You find you need to turn your torso to look over your shoulder to see your blind spot while driving.
  • It is painful or uncomfortable to sit in the front few rows of a movie theater; looking up for extended periods causes stiffness and pain. These are signs that you may be getting arthritis in your neck.
  • You can’t do a yoga cobra pose: palms on the floor, hips on the floor, straightening out elbows and looking upward, thus extending your back.
early onset arthritis

These indicators of stiffness in the spine are crude, yet indicators for a person to be screened for spinal arthritis. Be aware that, similar to most degenerative diseases, by the time symptoms arise, the problem is usually advanced. Therefore it’s wise to be periodically screened regardless of symptoms.

Why does early onset arthritis occur?

The most common causes of early-onset arthritis of the spine are the following:

  1. Post-Trauma: After injury or trauma, such as a car accident or concussion, an accelerated rate of spinal degenerative change is more probable. According to Holmes, in a 1989 issue of THE CERVICAL SPINE, “follow-up roentgenograms taken an average of 7 years after an injury in one series of patients without prior evidence of degenerative disc disease indicated that 39% had developed degenerative disc disease at one or more levels since injury”.
  2. Spine Surgery: Yes, the most common treatment for spinal degeneration also causes it. For those who undergo spine surgeries, the structure or joint motion is altered. It is quite common for the segments above and below the surgery sites to wear down. This is Adjacent Segment Degeneration. There are several theories as to why this happens. Some say it is because the segments above or below have become hypermobile. This makes up for the lack of motion at the surgery site. Others state that it is because the surgery site has altered the normal mechanics of the spine. When we alter mechanics, it alters how the spine handles everyday stresses, mechanical forces, and especially relentless gravity, leading to premature wear.
  3. Mechanical Spinal Problems: According to the most prestigious orthopedic peer-reviewed journal, The Spine Journal, a loss of the normal low back curve has immense clinical significance in the cause disc degeneration, bulges, and herniations, as well as lower back pain. This means the further away from the normal structure a spine is, the greater the probability of arthritis. Simply put, in a gravity environment, structure matters. If our spinal structure is in a normal position, the spine will withstand most stresses, including gravity. However, when our spinal biomechanics alter in a significant or abnormal way from our genetic ideal, this will cause early onset arthritis. Similarly, when a car has its front end out of alignment, the components of the car will wear unevenly up to failure.

What Early Onset Arthritis Means to Us

It is this premature wearing down of the body’s “components”, the breakdown of bone and tissue of the spine, that has a profound impact on how our spines degenerate, which directly impacts our posture and how we look. Posture impacts our own body image and how the world sees us. Even more importantly, posture also has a tremendous impact on our physiology and neurology, how we feel, function and age.

In my over 25 years of experience, I have also seen poor posture and early onset arthritis have a negative impact on people’s mood and behavior. If you improve spine biomechanics, changing from a forward-leaning depressive posture to a more upright, energized position through our spinal structural change protocol, it has a positive impact on not only bodily pain but on mood and mental state as well.

early onset arthritis


The most accurate way to diagnose spinal arthritis is through radiographs of the spine. Front and side x-rays, when taken properly, will confirm degenerative changes in the spine. In our Tucker and Brookhaven Georgia locations, we load our digital X-ray images into specialized, hyper-sensitive software. This software analyzes and compares your genetic ideal structure with your current structure. We call this “spine mapping”. Once your spine is mapped, we can then calculate how far off from your genetic ideal you are. We also determine, how to improve your structure naturally, without surgery.

early onset arthritis

Keep in mind, the diagnosis is only the first step. It’s equally important to figure out the cause of the diagnosis. Once we determine the cause, you can take the first steps to diminish the rate of early-onset spinal degeneration.

If our spines are in a relatively normal mechanical position, we will age normally. Do you know what your spine looks like? Time to check it out, and plan for a bright and healthy future!

Why I wrote this blog?

I have been a chiropractic patient since the age of 16. After a decade of chiropractic treatment, I was diagnosed with early-onset arthritis. I discovered this through an x-ray of my neck. Quite an upsetting discovery for a long-term chiropractic patient. Please don’t misinterpret, I’m not suggesting chiropractic care causes arthritis. But what chiropractors often claim is that their technique of care can prevent this condition. Unfortunately, in my case, and in the scientific literature, I have not seen any evidence supporting this claim. With one exception: Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP). It is the one technique that delivers on preventing this debilitating condition.

How? Premature/early-onset arthritis is often caused by spinal structural misalignment. If that is the cause, then only a method that will change and improve that structure can prevent its progression. CBP practitioners, like myself, are changing the trajectory of this condition in our patients every day. This improves quality of life and changes the course of health for the long term.

About the Author
Dr. David A. Shapiro
Dr. David Shapiro, DC, CEO of Complete Spine Solutions

A graduate of Life University, School of Chiropractic 1993 (4600 postgraduate hours). Board-certified licensed Doctor of Chiropractic. Passed 3 national board tests and the state of Georgia board examination. Also certified in therapeutic modalities.

Advanced Certified in Chiropractic BioPhysics, the most evidence-based technique in chiropractic. He’s been in private practice for over 25 years.

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