As you age, your spine experiences a certain amount of stress and strain. And if you injure your back, it may not heal to the same condition, and your movement modifies becoming less efficient. The load placed on your spine over time may lead to the onset of a condition called spondylosis (spinal arthritis).
What causes spondylosis?
Ageing is the main cause of spinal arthritis. Degeneration of the spine as you age leads to a cascade of changes to your spine’s structures. Your spinal discs thin over time, which causes changes in movement patterns of facet joints that help to stabilise the spine. This then causes the cartilage surrounding the facet joints to wear away and can irritate and inflame the spinal nerve roots. The facet joints then do not move as efficiently which can create further issues.
What are the risk factors of spondylosis?
The following factors may put you at an increased risk of spinal arthritis:
A family history of arthritis,
You have previously injured your spine or had spinal surgery,
A job that involves repetitive or weight-bearing movement,
Having a sedentary lifestyle with no exercise
Smoking (it accelerates ageing), or
What are the symptoms of spondylosis?
Many people with spondylosis do not experience any symptoms. When symptoms are present, they include some of the following:
Stiffness or reduced mobility after sleeping or sitting for long periods
Muscles spasms or pain
Numbness, tingling, pins and needles
Weakness in the hands and legs
Loss of balance
Loss of bladder or bowel control
How is spondylosis treated?
One of the most effective ways to treat spinal arthritis is with exercise. As chiros, we can work with you to develop an exercise program that will strengthen the muscles that support the spine, while maintaining flexibility. We can assess your posture and help you to improve it to reduce any additional strain on your spine.
We will also take a look at the physical activities you are doing day-to-day and advise you how best to structure them so that you are keeping moving but not overdoing it. It’s important to keep moving when you have spinal arthritis but breaking up physical tasks into chunks rather than doing too much at once can help to reduce the pressure on your spine.
Manual therapy and massage are used to reduce pain and increase movement however we are less likely to use high velocity adjustments (i.e. the crack) with arthritic joints due to the increased risk of further injury and damage to an already degenerated joint.
Can spondylosis be prevented?
By making some changes to your lifestyle, you can improve the health of your spine. Here are a few things you can start doing right now:
Regular exercise to improve core strength, mobility, and flexibility. Ideally incorporating both aerobic and resistance training activities.
Make sure you always use the correct technique to lift heavy items, and don’t lift excessive loads.
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight, as obesity puts strain on your joints and spine.
Take regular breaks to stretch and move when you are sitting for long periods.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet to ensure you are getting the right nutrients and vitamins.
Practice good posture to promote spine health (we can help you with this!).