The spine is made up of 24 individual vertebrae stacked on top of a bone called the “sacrum”. To allow for flexibility and movement, there is a cushion or “disc” in between each level. As we age, these discs can wear and become thinner. This leads to additional changes, including bone spurs and narrowing of the opening where your nerves exit your spine. This process is called “spondylosis”, or simply, “arthritis”. This problem most commonly involves the vertebra at the very base of your spine or in the middle of the neck.
Arthritis is exceptionally common, affecting people as young as 20 and becoming extremely likely by age 70. How quickly you develop arthritis is thought to be a trait you inherited from your parents. Other factors may play a role, including a history of trauma, smoking, operating motorized vehicles, being overweight, and/ or performing repetitive movements (i.e. lifting, twisting, bending, or sitting). Men seem to be affected slightly more often than women.
Symptoms often begin as neck, back, and buttock pain that gradually worsens. Stiffness may be present upon arising in the morning. Pain is relieved by rest or light activity and aggravated by strenuous work. Sometimes your nerves can become “pinched” in narrowed openings where they exit your spine. This can cause pain, numbness, or tingling radiating into your leg along the path of the irritated nerve.
Arthritic changes can be seen on x-rays, but interestingly, the amount of wearing does not seem to correlate directly with the severity of your symptoms. People with the same degree of arthritis may have symptoms ranging from none to severe. Most researchers believe that the symptoms of osteoarthritis are not the direct result of the disease but from joint restrictions and muscle tightness. Fortunately, those conditions are treatable and our office has a variety of tools to help relieve your pain.
Research has shown that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to degeneration, so be sure to stay active and perform your home exercises. Low-impact activities, like walking, stationary cycling, water aerobics, and yoga may also be helpful.
Credit: Information on this page provided by ChiroUp.