Posture imbalances/spinal misalignments/joint fixations can cause changes to the structure of the spine (degeneration) as well as irritate nerves, muscles, and joints. These changes can get progressively worse over time. These changes take the form of ongoing damage known as “spinal 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!
A normal spine from the side has nice smooth curves. These curves are 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 these curves or alignment puts stress through your discs, 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
This phase is characterized with a loss or change in the normal curve in the spine. This puts much more stress through the discs. More than 80% of patients in phase 1 will experience no pain or symptoms.
Degeneration Phase 2
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. Sometimes stiffness and/or a decrease range of motion 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. By the time a patient is in Phase 3, the common symptoms are pain, restricted movement, 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 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 can notice 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.