But chiropractic can involve more than adjusting the spine, neck and other joints, Scott Bautch, DC, chairman and CEO of Wisconsin-based Allied Health Chiropractic Centers, points out.

“For those with RA, we look at a broad spectrum of issues and address them in various ways to minimize damage, slow the pace of the condition and ease pain,” he says. “We want to get the joint as comfortable as possible.”

Among the techniques that Bautch references are:

Ultrasound therapy. Many think of ultrasound as imaging technology, but when applied to soft tissues and joints, sound waves can also produce a massaging effect that helps reduce swelling and decrease pain and stiffness.

Trigger-point therapy. Applying gentle pressure to a specific area of muscle where a patient experiences pain to alleviate that pain.

Low-level laser therapy, or “cold laser.” This technique uses a non-heat producing laser or light that penetrates deep into the tissue, sometimes reducing inflammation.

Therapeutic exercises and stretches. Physical activities designed specifically for people with RA to promote strength and endurance. These activities can be done in the office or at home.

Much about chiropractic is aimed squarely at the joints, which of course is where RA typically wreaks havoc. So when a person with RA experiences a flare, manipulations shouldn’t be attempted.

“If a patient has joints that have active swelling, I would not recommend going to a chiropractor,” says Alyce Oliver, MD, PhD, assistant professor of rheumatology at the Medical College of Georgia. “If you can’t get swelling under control, it would be dangerous to get an adjustment.”