Are you rusting on the inside? What you need to know before it is too late!
Spinal osteoarthritis can go on for many years undetected before it becomes severe and disabling. Osteoarthritis is also referred to as spondylosis, degeneration, decay or simply “wear and tear”. It is a process whereby the joints of the spine, or for that matter any other joint in the body, start to break down and lose their ability to function as they should.
During this process:
- Discs lose height, dehydrate, tear and sometimes bulge
- Bones develop spurs (osteophytes)
- Inflammation and swelling occurs to varying degrees
- Surrounding muscles spasm and become weak
- Ligaments lose their elasticity and become more fibrous
- Your nervous system stops working optimally and this can have far reaching effects on the function of muscles and joints.
What you may feel is:
- Headaches and the consequences of chronic pain such as decreased concentration and irritability.
- Fatigue, a body that is stiff is harder to move and takes a lot more energy to run.
- Trouble getting a good nights sleep.
What you may see is:
- Postural deterioration such as rounding of the upper back and shoulders
- Swelling around the joints
What may hear is:
- Creaking and grinding of joints as they lose the protection and cushioning provided by cartilage, synovial fluid and proper muscular support.
While there is still some debate as to the many factors that play a role in accelerating this process there are a few things that we know for sure will set the process in motion.
Some causes of osteoarthritis:
- Poor alignment (joint subluxation) which places uneven stress on your joints. This can come globally in the form of poor posture or segmentally where one or a combination of joints has lost their proper alignment. While poor posture may be easy to detect with the eye, intersegmental joint dysfunction and may benefit from a chiropractic care.
- Lack of joint control (too much movement) due to muscle weakness and/or incoordination (poor muscle patterning)
- Joint stiffness (too little movement). Funnily enough if your joints don’t move enough they will also degenerate. Joints need a certain amount of healthy stress in the form of movement to stay alive. Movement circulates synovial fluid and with it nutrients in and out of the joint tissues. This creates a viscious circle as osteoarthritis leads to further restriction which leads to further osteoarthritis and so on and so on.
What makes osteoarthritis so sinister is that the majority of the process can be painless.
This means that by the time you do get pain it is so far gone that a fix is out of the question and management (damage control) is the only option. And just to complicate things further the pain you get may not be where the osteoarthritis is at its worst. I commonly see that the pain and symptoms occur at a site distant to where the osteoarthritis. There are 2 main reasons for this:
- Because of the way the body compensates placing excessive stress on other areas causing further stress and strain
- Nerves that come from that area of the spine get irritated and then go on to supply other parts of the body causing referred pain and/or altered function of organs, glands and other muscles and joints
So to help avoid the onset of osteoarthritis
- Do your best to maintain good joint movement and proper alignment! Early detection and correction is the key to winning the game
- Stretch regularly. Nothing beats a couple of yoga classes per week
- Take regular breaks when working at a desk. Latest research recommends not sitting for more than 20min at a time without getting up and having a quick break
- Ensure your diet is full of unprocessed healthy foods which will tend to reduce inflammation. Junk foods are what we call pro-inflammatory further accelerating the aging process.
- Supplement with Omega 3 fish oils which are protective for joints and anti-inflammatory
- Take time out to de-stress. Stress equals unneeded muscular tension further stressing your joints
- Incorporate low impact exercises like swimming, cycling and walking.