As we age, so does our spine. Due to the activities that we carry out daily, our spine is exposed to various physical stressors which may cause it to wear down, and the more time passes, the more worn down it can become.
Degenerative changes mostly occur with aging and tend to affect some people to a more severe degree than others. As our spine wears out, and the structure of bones, joints, cartilages, discs, and muscles tends to change. Bones become more fragile, and as a result, the incidence of back pain may increase.
These changes tend to have a negative impact on many people’s lives, reducing their ability to engage in physical activities that they were previously able to perform. This happens mostly because the changes that occur in the spine tend to lead to pain, stiffness and reduced range of motion, although the process of degeneration is not necessarily felt until after the age of 50.
Degenerative Conditions of the Spine
Certain conditions and symptoms may also develop as a result of spinal degeneration and can affect any region of the spine. Some of the most notable ones include:
Degenerative Disc Disease
Spinal discs tend to be the primary structure to be affected by degeneration of the spine, as they tend to lose more and more water content the more a person ages. As a result, they become thinner, and the cushioning effect they used to provide in earlier years lessens.
Because of this thinning out effect, the spine may also lose some length, and as such compression can occur. When this happens, nerve roots branching out from the spinal canal can become pinched and trigger pain sensations.
Facet Joint Degeneration
The joints of the spine may also wear down as we age, leading to something called Facet Joint Syndrome, more frequently referred to as Osteoarthritis. They become stiffer and can reduce a person’s range of movement. Additionally, the joints may rub directly on one another as the thin layer between them wears out completely, further increasing the chances of feeling pain.
Development of Bone Spurs
Bone spurs, which are small bump-shaped bone formations, tend to appear on the edge of vertebrae, and can sometimes obstruct the path of nerve roots, pinching them and triggering pain.
The pressure that our spine is placed under can accumulate over the years, and can then press down the spinal column, leading to a state called spinal compression. When it becomes compressed, the spine loses height and nerves may become trapped and painful due to the lack of sufficient space.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In order to determine if the symptoms you experience are caused by spine degeneration or something else, it is best to consult a medical professional and obtain a diagnosis before proceeding to relieve the pain.
When it comes to the treatment options available, some of the conditions above cannot be treated as the process of degeneration cannot be stopped. However, the symptoms they cause can be managed effectively.
Out of all the conditions mentioned above, spinal compression is the easiest to treat as the process can be reversed through decompression therapy, a treatment modality that can easily be done from home with the help of a specialised exercise programme, using a specific orthopaedic device called the Backrack.