What You Need to Know about Arthritis and Spinal Disc Issues
Sometimes called degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic condition of the joints, affecting approximately 27 million Americans. OA can affect any joint, but it often occurs in the neck and low back regions of the spine. OA affecting the discs in the spine is also called degenerative disc disease. Many people think arthritis is just part of the aging process, but most of the time, it is a biomechanical problem left unaddressed that worsens over time. It is like driving a car out of alignment for an extended period. Of course, the tires and brakes would wear unevenly. The same thing happens in the spine. When the bones and joints are not moving correctly, they will start to wear down. This can lead to thinning and weakening of the discs. Chiropractic does not necessarily remove degeneration that has already taken place, but it can get the spine moving better and prevent further degeneration from occurring.
The discs, or shock absorbers in your spine, are vitally important to distribute forces as you move. It should be a priority to keep them healthy. However, sometimes they bulge, herniate, degenerate and tear, but they don’t “slip.” Discs, along with the curves of the spine, serve as the “shock absorbers” of your body. Lower back pain may be the result of herniated discs and other disc issues. Separating each vertebra, they create the necessary spacing for nerves to exit the spinal cord to service the organs and tissues of your body. Rings of fibrous tissue called the annulus contain a soft jelly center.
Here’s a look at two common disc problems:
A weakened area of the annulus can allow the softer center of the disc to bulge out like a balloon. This can put pressure on nearby nerves and cause pain. Bulging discs do not have to cause pain though. One study found that up to 74% of asymptomatic participants (people with no symptoms) had evidence of a bulging disc on MRI. Whether they cause pain or not, bulging discs can interfere with normal function and thankfully respond well to chiropractic care. With improved spinal function, we’ve seen many cases in which surgery was threatened, resolve nicely.
A herniated or ruptured disc tends to be more serious. It can occur anywhere in the spine, but seems most common in the lower back. This is when part of the soft center pushes out through a weakened area due to trauma or degeneration, putting pressure on the spinal cord. Many types of herniated discs respond very positively to chiropractic care too.
Chiropractic care, along with simple exercises, such as walking, core strengthening, increased water intake and improved nutrition offer a natural, non-surgical resolution for many disc problems.