Subluxations cause changes to the structure of the spine (degeneration) as well as the nerves. These changes get progressively worse as time is allowed to work on the subluxated area of the spine. These changes take the form of ongoing damage known as “subluxation degeneration” or “wear-and-tear” arthritis. If you were to continually drive your car with the wheels out of alignment, the tires would wear down – your spine is no different! It is possible to reasonably estimate the time subluxations have been present in a spine by studying a spinal x-ray. Having this information is useful in understanding the time and effort needed for correction.
Normal Spine Normal
A normal spine from the side has a nice smooth curve. This curve is essential to your health and the health of your nervous system. Since your spinal cord travels down the center of the spine, any alteration in this curve puts stress through your spinal cord and onto the nerves within your nervous system. The discs are spaced evenly, and the bones are nice and smooth.
Degeneration Phase 1
Degeneration Phase 1 subluxation degeneration is seen in subluxations that have been present for up to 10 years. This phase is characterized with a loss or change in the normal curve in the spine. This puts much more stress through the discs. Correction for phase 1 can take between 6 and 18 months. More than 80% of patients in phase 1 will experience no pain or symptoms.
Degeneration Phase 2
Degeneration Phase 2 is characterized by further degeneration. The front part of the individual spinal bones are becoming sharp and pointed. These are known as ‘bone spurs’. As well, the disc spaces between the bones are beginning to decrease. This phase usually results from subluxations being present from 10-20 years. There may be no pain associated with this phase either. Sometimes stiffness and/or a decrease range of motion, or headaches may be present in this stage.
Degeneration Phase 3
Degeneration Phase 3 is a more severe progression of an uncorrected phase 2. Further degeneration in the discs is present and the ‘bone spurs’ are becoming larger and more pointed. Subluxations have usually been present for 20+ years to get to this stage. By the time a patient is in Phase 3, the common symptoms are pain, restricted movement, arm pain, headaches, etc. In many instances the body has adapted to this stage and corrective care is aimed at functional restoration.
Degeneration Phase 4
Degeneration If subluxations remain uncorrected, a patient will slowly degenerate until the spinal bones fuse. At this stage, a person’s quality of life and their longevity may be severely limited. There may be serious structural and neurological consequences at this stage of degeneration which may warrant a referral to a surgeon.
Structural Correction is not possible at this stage; however, many patients notice significant improvements in symptoms, mobility and quality of life.
It should be noted that these are general guidelines only. Every person is different. We firmly believe it is never too early or too late to begin chiropractic; however, the later you begin chiropractic care, the longer, more frequent and more difficult your road back to health will be.
Regardless of your current health condition, there is as much hope for you as for anyone else!