Do I have arthritis or spinal degeneration?

Do I have arthritis or spinal degeneration?

Most people think that arthritic conditions only affect the elderly, but the sad reality is that we see a large number of children in our office with the beginning stages of osteoarthritis a.k.a spinal degeneration.  Some kids are already on this devastating path at a very young age (5, 8, 12 years old).  It’s also important to understand that we see many older people who have fantastic spines with little to no degeneration.  I say all that so you’ll understand that age along doesn’t equate to arthritis.  So how you do know if you have arthritis or spinal degeneration?

The type of arthritis we are describing is most often touted as the “wear and tear” type osteoarthritis and has been strictly associated with age for far too long.  It is the most common type of arthritis and can be detected in 35% of the general population by 30 years of age and it’s my opinion that number is far to low.  By the time someone is 70 years old, this condition appears to be universal.

A study by J.S. Lawrence revealed that osteoarthritis can be noted on an X-ray in 10% of 15 year old children and I stand and scream “this is not OK!!”

Osteoarthritis has been characterized clinically by pain, deformity, reduced range of motion, stiffness and eventually partial or complete disability.  It’s unfortunate but is has been universally accepted as a simple and inescapable part of aging.  Any notion or thought even remotely associated with slowing or halting the process and even reversing it has been labeled, until recently, as impossible.

Repairing the Joints

Joints in your body are area where two bones come together for the purpose of motion.  The ends of these bones are lined with a soft tissue cartilage that is designed to reduce friction so that the motion of the joint is smooth and painless.  As a matter of fact, the surface of the cartilage that lines your joints is so perfect as to be almost entirely without friction.  Also, an interesting fact about cartilage is that it has the ability to heal itself and is characterized as self-regenerating.  Along with the cartilage is a special material called synovial fluid that constantly bathes the joint and acts as a lubricant.  The process of arthritis is your own body’s attempt to repair something that has been damaged or is under stress, such as from a vertebral subluxation (mis-alignment) of the spinal bones.

Spinal vertebra are separated by a disc that acts as a shock absorbing material that undergoes a number of changes as a result of excess or improper stress.  These discs tend to decrease in size and cracks form in the material.  These changes tend to lead to instability of the joints and as a result, the normal body’s repair phenomena is called into play in an attempt to stabilize an area that is unstable.  As a result, we see the formation of calcium deposits and bone spurs that cause the pain and limited range of motion and are evident on the X-rays.  Arthritis is no longer seen in terms of an actual disease, rather it is viewed as your own body attempting to repair an area of your spine which is unstable.

But fun fact…. arthritis is not caused by aging, rather it is caused by chronic stress on the joints and some of the spinal bones remaining out of alignment for long periods of time.  We see children with this condition because the process of pregnancy and birth cause a traumatic incident that creates the subluxation from the beginning.

What is the take-home message?

The good new is that odds are often in your favor to slow down, halt and even reverse this condition when you take the proper steps.  It is important to have your spine checked as soon as possible if you have not already do this.  Far too often people wait until they are in pain or have stiffness before they take action but by this time, the process has advanced further than anticipated.  It is also important to have your children checked to determine whether or not they have subluxations, not only from the perspective of ensuring normal health and function but also to make certain that there is no error in the function of the vertebra that will lead to the arthritic process.  There are also some things you can take that can help in the recovery process….

-Glucosamine sulphate with chondroitin which helps to repair the collagen matrix that comprises your cartilage, discs and other ligaments

-Devil’s claw root and tumeric are natural anti-inflammatory substances that slow the body’s abnormal repair process

-Magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B and bioflavonoids can all be consumed by children

*Be sure to consult with a doctor before starting yourself or your children on any of these substances and speak with a naturopath or homeopath for additional nutritional recommendations specific to your situation.

Through a proper health history, examination and X-rays, a chiropractor can detect these changes early and put together a plan to aid in the recovery.  If you have any specific questions, please call 918-940-4630 to set up your complimentary consultation to speak with Dr. Travis Ring to discuss your situation.  Like it’s stated earlier, early intervention is the key to keeping the odds in your favor.