Arthritis is a condition that affects people of all ages but it becomes more common with increasing age. People often say ‘Nothing can be done for my back pain, I’ve got arthritis’. So, if you have arthritis does it really mean you have to just grit your teeth and put up with it?
Arthritis is progressive and can affect any joint in the body. It causes inflammation within the joints, which can cause them to be stiff and painful. There are many types of arthritis with the most common being osteoarthritis, when this is present in the spine it is known as spondylosis. Osteoarthritis is progressive and goes through three typical phases:
The shock absorbers (discs) in between each vertebra are full of fluid. As osteoarthritis starts to progress they lose some of this fluid from within the disc. This leads to a loss in disc height, which allows less space for the nerve roots to exit from the spinal cord meaning an injury is more likely. The dehydration of the disc and the loss of disc height also cause the spine to become more unstable.
The discs continue to dehydrate. This causes the body to react by trying to stabilise the spine. It does this by trying to fuse the adjoining vertebra together. Little bony protrusions start to appear known as osteophytes. These osteophytes can pinch on the nerves directly or cause less space for the nerve roots to exit from the spinal cord making an injury even more likely.
The vertebrae eventually fuse leaving no room for the nerve roots to exit from the spinal cord. The spine is now more stable but it is likely that there is a complete lack of range of motion. The nerves are likely to be irritated or damaged resulting in pain, changes in sensation, and decrease in muscle strength.
So, how do you tell how much arthritis is present in the spine? People always assume they are in the third phase of arthritis. This is rarely the case. As long as you are within the second phase then something can be done. The joints can be kept more mobile, and the inflammation reduced. This can reduce pain levels and can even increase range of motion. Arthritis cannot be cured but it can be easily managed. In order to manage arthritis effectively you can do the following:
- Go for regular walks. Walking helps free up the joints throughout your body.
- Stay hydrated. Water makes up most of the body and keeping the body hydrated makes things more fluid and mobile.
- Try not to sit for too long. Sitting for long periods means our body becomes accustomed to those positions. Joints in specific areas tighten and you start to get muscular compensation. Take regular breaks in order to try and prevent this, every 30 minutes is recommended.
- See a chiropractor. If you wish to stay mobile or want to get rid of pain a chiropractor is your best bet. The chiropractor will assess your whole body and tell you which joints are moving and which ones are not and will help get you back on track.