Every individual’s experience with ageing and its effects can vary greatly. It often produces changes in our anatomy which can be very noticeable (like the forming of wrinkles, gray hair) and some which are more difficult to see because the changes occur inside our bodies.
This is especially true in the case of spinal degeneration. The lack of painful symptoms in the first stage makes it very difficult for people to determine that they already have it. In most cases, this can go unnoticed for months or years.
Here’s how our spine changes gradually:
- During the 1st stage, You may only feel little to no pain. However, the spine may already show signs of misalignment along with some muscle and ligament weakness. These misalignments, while not painful, can still cause extra pressure on the spine which can lead to more rapid ageing of the spine, nerves, and joints.
- During the 2nd stage, The spinal curve will become more unnatural and the degeneration of discs becomes more noticeable. Deformations in the bone (eg. bone spurs) are now common, and this is where you will begin to feel some pain and discomfort.
- The 3rd stage is a level worse, and it is accompanied by a major change in posture and spinal curve along with more pain. Discs are much thinner which might result in even greater bone deformation. There can be cases of nerve damage and loss of mobility. Other symptoms will vary depending on which nerves are affected.
- The 4th and final stage of spine degeneration is considered irreversible. Discs are at their thinnest, that’s why the spine’s flexibility is extremely limited. Nerve damage can be severe and with that comes a loss of function in some parts of the body. Pain and discomfort is almost always present.
This ageing of the spine occurs with all individuals over time. From being toddlers to being teenagers, and then as adults— all of us must have already experienced hundreds or thousands of stressors that caused our spine to deteriorate. Falls, injuries, basically any history of trauma can bring degenerative changes to the spine. Not only that, constant exposure to daily stressors accelerates the ageing process even more. Hours spent sitting, playing, doing sports, using gadgets, working, lifting, driving, not to mention other chemical and mental stressors… The spine is strong enough to withstand whatever you throw at it, but if you do expose it regularly to these heavy stressors, it gets physically bombarded too.
Today, it’s not a surprise anymore to see someone as young as 20 years old to be in the early stages of spinal degeneration. This is likely to happen if there’s a history of spinal stress and abuse, which is accompanied by poor spinal hygiene (poor posture, nutrition, hydration, and rest). Unfortunately, you can’t reverse the ageing process once your discs begin to degenerate. Once you have it, it’s typically a lifelong journey of learning to manage back pain, neck pain, or other symptoms. So the best action here is to locate the problem before it is too late to make considerable changes.
Chiropractic for the Ageing Spine
We are trained to spot early warning signs of spinal degeneration. If the condition is caught early enough, spinal adjustments along with specific exercises can help correct misalignments in the spine before lasting damage is done. If you already live with the late stages of spinal degeneration, the degenerative changes themselves cannot be reversed— but we can still help you to improve spinal function, and often minimise the painful symptoms
So…are you currently experiencing any pain in your neck or back? NOW is the best time to do something about it. While pain is all part of the ageing process that can’t be stopped, it’s important to get checked as early as you can to stay ahead of potential problems or conditions.
You can also do your part to keep your spine healthy by practicing good spinal hygiene (be active, eat healthy, rest well and most of all, maintain good posture). All of these together are the best way to help prevent or relieve pain as we grow older.