Spinal Degeneration

What is Spinal Degeneration?

Spinal degeneration is a term that encompasses a syndrome of osteoarthritis in several areas of the spine. It is also commonly referred to as Degenerative Joint Disease or DJD. While most common in the neck and lower back, degeneration can occur at any level of the spine and also at the facet joints. It is also a condition most typically found in the elderly.

Signs and Symptoms

  • stiffness, loss of flexibility and range of motion, and sometimes weakness and radiating pain

  • on x-ray: loss of disc height, development of bone spurs, and loss of normal lateral curves. 

Causes

Spinal degeneration takes years to develop and is most commonly a result of two different causes: years of physical labor and/or years of poor posture. 

As poor posture and physical labor place pressure unevenly on the spinal structure, the body reacts by distributing bone in connective tissue to help to stabilize the load, resulting in degenerative arthritis.  

The Medical Approach 

There is no medical treatment to slow or stop the development of osteoarthritis, so the medical management is concerned with symptom reduction through the use of NSAIDs. The medical approach also offers spinal fusions and total disc replacements as ways of eliminating motion at the painful joints. This is not recommended for individuals with arthritis also in the facet joints which accounts for the vast majority of cases.

The Non-Medical Approach 

Implementing physical therapy exercises of the spinal muscles has been shown to mediate some pain associated with osteoarthritis, but has little long-lasting effect. Yoga, Pilates, and Tai-Chi, alternatively, have also been shown to somewhat lessen the stiffness associated with spinal degeneration.

The Chiropractic Approach 

Since osteoarthritis of spinal degeneration decreases the mobility of a spinal motion segment, the motion introduced to the segment through a chiropractic adjustment has been shown to reduce pain and stiffness. It has been found that individuals with spinal degeneration are also found to have instability in the affected spinal areas. Chiropractic adjustments to the spine can restore stability and lead to better postural stability. 

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