Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in America and still cited as one of the primary factors behind aging adults resorting to nursing homes. As arthritis worsens, it not only causes constant joint pain, but it also limits range of motion and strength. Adults who were once vibrant and healthy can no longer take care of their homes or themselves, and they need assistance attending to basic tasks. Ultimately, they lose their independence.

I watched my grandfather wither away, bedridden for virtually the last decade of his life, due to arthritis. He lost the function of his shoulders which prevented him from being able to get out of a chair (not to mention a bed) without assistance. Because he spent so many years immobile, I have very few memories of my grandfather, and what I do remember was how cranky he was (of course if I were in constant pain, I don’t think my mood would have been that much better). 

At one point while he was still mobile, my grandfather brought his x-rays to me for analysis. The degeneration in his spine and shoulders was advanced, but nothing I haven’t seen successfully treated. I explained to him that it would take some time, he would have to stick to a plan and do exercises, but there was certainly hope. He nodded in agreement. Because I lived several hundred miles away, I would have to find him a good chiropractor in his area, but it was unlikely that his Medicare would pay for the type of treatment that he really needed (Medicare specifically states in section 2251 that it considers promoting health or preventing deterioration of a chronic condition medically unnecessary). This is where I lost him. He didn’t want to pay anything out of pocket, even if it meant that he could get better. I tried to explain that the cost would be nominal compared to the gains he would experience, but he was unmoved. That would be one of the last times I saw my grandfather standing upright.

It pains me to think of all that he lost out on. His family didn’t really get to know him, just his pain. The greatest thing his arthritis stole from him was his legacy; instead of remembering this amazing grandfather who was always there for us, his family recalls the grouchy old man who withered away. The tragic irony of it all is that the cost of the treatment that would have added “life” to his years would have been a fraction of what he ended up spending on nursing home care.

Arthritis is preventable and treatable, especially the earlier it is caught. But even in extreme cases, corrective chiropractic care can make marked improvement if the sufferer is willing to put in the effort. Most important, Life and Legacy are worth the investment!

I did end up learning some very important lessons from my grandfather. Leave your best legacy! Do whatever it takes to be remembered for the values you stand for and to continue to touch the lives of the important people around you! His example also taught me that you can’t give up. Taking the cheap and easy route will cost you far more than you can even imagine!

-Dr. Jae Hitson