People often come to see me for a “simple” back or neck pain, expecting a “quick fix” and are quite shocked and upset to discover degenerative changes in their spines. Can Chiropractors slow degenerative changes?
These degenerative changes, also known as osteoarthritis, spondylosis or degenerative disc disease is a slow process which becomes increasingly more common as we age. It is the most common form of arthritis in the spine and can often occur without any noticeable symptoms (pain). X rays are a very useful tool for showing degenerative changes in the spine and it’s why I often recommend my patients have a set of X- rays taken before starting Chiropractic care.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a result of the protective cartilage of the joints and discs deteriorating and wearing away, often leading to inflammation, swelling and pain. With time the body produces extra bits of bone (osteophytes/bone spurs) in an effort to strengthen and support this weakened area. Unfortunately this extra bone can place pressure on the nerves which exit the spine, this will interfere with nerve function and can lead to nerve damage. Your nervous system controls everything, so pressure on these nerve can lead to all sorts of symptoms including pain, numbness and weakness in the muscles.
What causes it?
Osteoarthritis can be caused by a traumatic injury to the joint and by genetic conditions that affect cartilage, however the most common cause I see in practice, is due to a loss of the normal shape of the spine. The spine is designed to have a very specific shape and alignment in order to distribute weight evenly across the joints. Unfortunately these misaligned joints cannot move efficiently which leads to increased strain on the joint and ultimately degenerative changes.
This happens most commonly in the lower back and lower neck as these areas are designed for maximum movement and are more vulnerable to injury.
By far the most common postural problem I see is forward head posture, and is often a result of a straightening of the neck curve (loss of lordosis). I find this very often in people who spend a lot of time hunched in front of their computers, and in patients who have had whiplash. This commonly places more strain on the C5,C6 and C7 vertebrae, and these vertebrae are often the first to show signs of degeneration.
The X-ray below (left) is of a patient of mine who was involved in a car accident, resulting in a whiplash injury. The X ray below (right) shows a neck with a normal curve as demonstrated by the red line. You can quite clearly see the difference in alignment between the two neck X rays. The neck on the left has lost its normal curve, which has led to degenerative changes in the C3/C4 and C5/C6/C7 regions (yellow arrows). This patient was only 44 years old, and suffering with regular neck pain, headaches, and numbness into both her arms.
So what can you do about if you have degenerative changes?
First you will need to have a thorough Chiropractic examination, which should include a set of X-rays, to determine…
- If your spine is degenerating
- How much degeneration has already taken place
- The cause of your degenerative changes
- If you are a candidate for corrective Chiropractic care.
At Align Corrective Chiropractic we are trained in specialised techniques to correct abnormal spinal alignment. If you are a candidate for Corrective Chiropractic we may be able to help slow down any further degenerative changes.
Corrective care takes time and effort and is influenced by a number of factors such as your age, amount of degeneration and compliance to your Chiropractic care plan. The good news is, we can often still make significant improvements in patients who already have degenerative changes, however the more degeneration there is, the harder it is to treat, so please don’t leave it to get any worse. Give us a call on 031 562 9180 if you have degenerative changes in your spine.