Chiropractic care is a complementary therapy used to help treat a number of aches and pains, especially in the back. While chiropractic care isn’t a medical treatment or cure, some people believe it helps improve their overall health, strength, comfort, and flexibility.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one condition that some say chiropractic care may help. There’s no cure for this chronic joint condition, but therapy from a qualified chiropractor may help you find some extra relief.

This article will explore whether chiropractic care is recommended to treat RA, when to avoid it, and how to find a chiropractor near you.

Chiropractic care is a form of complementary medicine that uses hands-on therapy to relieve pain and discomfort of the musculoskeletal system.

Chiropractors are known for performing spine and joint adjustments that can treat things like back and joint pain. For some people, chiropractic care is used as a form of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

Complementary therapies to improve mood, energy, and pain are becoming increasingly popular among people living with RA. And 2015 research suggests that there is room for chiropractic care in the RA treatment plan.

Reduce inflammation

One way chiropractic care may help relieve symptoms of RA is by reducing inflammation in the body.

For RA and other inflammatory diseases, chiropractic care is believed to balance the function of the body through alignment of your spine and other joints. These adjustments may also help lower the production of proteins that can build up in the immune system and contribute to inflammation.

Relieve joint pain

Joints that are not properly aligned can’t work properly, according to the Arthritis Foundation, so chiropractic care may help with some forms of arthritis by improving overall joint function.

A 2013 study found that people with osteoarthritis who visited a chiropractor twice per week for 6 weeks had more relief from their joint pain than those doing traditional stretching or physical therapy programs. How long it takes to see results from chiropractic care will depend on your specific situation. But the Arthritis Foundation says that when it’s effective, people usually find relief after 4 to 10 treatments.

Chiropractic care for RA can help to determine if your pain is caused by inflammation or by movements that compensate for that inflammation. In a 2015 case study, chiropractic care was able to provide limited relief for inflammatory pain. But the real benefit came from addressing the mechanical injuries the participant experienced trying to compensate for her RA pain and limitations.

Historically, groups like the World Health Organization (WHO) have warned against using chiropractic joint manipulation in areas directly affected by RA, particularly the upper neck.

However, newer research suggests that chiropractic care can benefit other areas of the body for people with RA and can help in periods of chronic — not acute — inflammation.

If you’re worried about getting chiropractic care to help treat your RA, talk with your rheumatologist or another specialist who manages your RA. They can provide recommendations for what type of complementary therapy will work best for you.

Chiropractors do not receive a traditional medical degree, but they do need to complete a doctor of chiropractic degree program. This postgraduate training takes about 4 years to complete. After, they need to pass every area of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exam.

Your best place to start when searching for a chiropractor may be a referral from your primary care doctor or RA specialist. They might be able to direct you to chiropractors in your area who specialize in treating arthritis and inflammation.

Before visiting a chiropractor, it’s also a good idea to check their credentials and see if there are any reviews from other patients. State boards also maintain lists of qualified chiropractors, and the American Chiropractic Association has an online search tool to help you find a chiropractor in your area.

Finding the right fit

If you want to search the credentials or availability of chiropractors in your state, your state chiropractic board is a good place to start.

Most states offer an online search tool where you can look up a chiropractor by name and view their credentials, as well as any disciplinary actions they might have faced.

The ACA also offers an online tool that allows you to search for chiropractors by zip code.

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Medicare covers chiropractic manipulation of the spine to help a person manage back pain, provided they have active back pain. The program only funds chiropractic care that corrects an existing problem and does not cover spinal manipulations as maintenance or preventive services.

Although Medicare will pay for certain chiropractic treatments, it does not cover massage therapy or X-rays. If a chiropractor offers or recommends any of these services, a person should ask about the cost of each, as they will need to fund the treatment themselves. Some private insurance plans only cover a portion of chiropractic care, and others might not cover it at all.

If you have insurance, call your insurance company before making an appointment with a chiropractor. They can help you find out your coverage, as well as what providers in the area are covered by your plan.

Without insurance, you can expect to pay around $64 on average for a single chiropractic visit, plus extra for services like a diagnostic X-ray. This may seem like a lot for an out-of-pocket service that you may need a few times per week to start. But a 2015 review suggests that the cost of chiropractic care is about 30 percent less than similar hospital-based services to manage pain.

Treating RA requires a multifaceted approach that includes medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

As the popularity of complementary therapies like chiropractic care increases, research suggests it can help improve strength and flexibility, as well as help reduce inflammation in the body — all things that can help someone who is living with RA.

If you want to know if chiropractic care is appropriate for you or can help your RA, ask your rheumatologist or RA specialist for information or a referral.