Avoiding Back Arthritis
Many patients believe back arthritis, clinically known as Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD), is an unavoidable outcome of aging. Although WebMD suggests “age-related changes” are causes of DDD, it’s been discovered patients may have only one disc instead of all discs that degenerate in their back according to x-ray and MRI results. Are some discs older than others within the same body then? Of course not! As babies, our spinal discs were formed at the same time and age at the same rate. Blaming back arthritis on old age alone is similar to blaming cavities on old age alone. Both stem from not properly taking care of our bodies!
Before understanding key steps to avoid back arthritis, let’s better understand the back. The intervertebral disc in your back is the largest organ in your entire body, and it has no direct blood supply. Your disc receives nutrients such as proteins, water and oxygen from your bloodstream through a special kind of diffusion which helps repair and regenerate your back when trauma and/or overuse occurs throughout your lifetime.
During the day, a healthy vertebrae compresses, squeezing out old fluid with used up nutrients. During the night, our spines decompress, creating space for new oxygen and nutrient rich fluid to enter. This process is clinically called “imbibition.” It’s essential that the many different joints of the spine are healthy and freely moving for this to function properly. Poor posture, trauma and other setbacks to the spine challenge the natural compression and decompression, preventing the removal of used nutrients and the introduction of new nutrients through blood flow. When your blood fails to diffuse properly, a lack of oxygen to your discs can cause cellular death, which results in degeneration of your disc tissue.
The GOOD NEWS! is that we can improve the health of our backs with these 3 steps:
Activity lubricates our joints, moves inflammation, develops muscle to stabilize our spine and triggers the compression and decompression of the spine disc. Perhaps you sit for long periods of time at your jobs, or find many of your favorite entertainment options involving watching TV, movies or sports. The Center for Disease Control states that a sedentary lifestyle, one where we sit at great length, is more detrimental to our health than smoking one pack of cigarettes a day! A routine of daily exercise, even trying to stand more at work, can help optimize your back.
Water is necessary for the body to function properly. It helps break down nutrients to be used for energy, reduces hypertension and improves overall skin health. Water also promotes muscle function and development. Staying hydrated keeps our discs full of fluid, resulting in a cushiony disc that can absorb shock and everyday stress on the spine. Try purchasing a reusable water bottle that you love and challenge yourself to hit your hydration goals daily! Maybe even share the challenge with a co-worker so that you can check in on one another throughout the day. The benefits of hydration are HUGE!
3) CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENTS
Just as regular visits to your dentist help prevent cavities, regular chiropractic care can prevent degenerative discs by loosening up your spinal joints for your discs to function as designed, compressing and removing used fluids and nutrients then decompressing to bring in new fluids and nutrients. Often one gets back pain and assumes it will go away with time. Sometimes this pain does go away, but that doesn’t mean the problem is healed. Often pain will reoccure over and over, becoming more and more severe with each additional episode. Ignoring back pain is like ignoring the check engine light in our car. We might get by for a time, but in the end, we are inviting disaster!
If back arthritis is indeed preventable, or at the very least manageable, we should do everything in our power to prevent it. A spinal fusion surgery costs on average, $150,000 for surgery alone not to mention 3-6 months recovery away from work! Surgery can be an option, yet it should be avoided if at all possible because it can be a precursor for more surgeries down the road. Sources suggest 80-85% of adults will at one time be treated for back pain, and 1/3 of these individuals will suffer from chronic back pain.
We have one spine only as the option for spinal transplants do not exist. Let’s do all we can to take care of the one we have been given through exercise, hydration and chiropractic care!