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We do see patients quite regularly at the clinic with arthritis in their spine, we even see cases where the 25 year old patient has the same objective degree of damage as the 65 year old patient. In both cases, it’s usually the case that they have been told by their GP something to the effect of ‘You’re just old, don’t worry about it’. We’re going to explain today why this is an unhelpful piece of guidance for the patient and doesn’t explain the full extent of the problem. We’re going to rule out any sinister arthritic changes, such as ankylosing spondylitis, in this article and more generally discuss arthritis in the sense of wear and tear to the spine.

What Is Age Related Arthritis?

Arthritic changes in the spine are generally considered age-related. While it’s true that yes, during your lifetime you may have accumulated the damage over 50 years so age may be a factor, the damage is not equal throughout the entire spine. Taking an unusual example, it’s very uncommon that we see a neck that is completely shot to pieces – meaning the whole neck is degenerated. Instead, it’s much more common that we see just one or two joints suffering from arthritis of a significant degree. Here, the argument of age is really inaccurate since, if it was, the whole neck would be degenerated. In reality, at The Mayfair Clinic we predominantly see cases where just one joint, whether that be in the neck or the lower back, and it’s usually the same joints that crop up time and time again with degenerative changes. Why do the same joints tend to become degenerated? Because it’s the same behaviours that cause the changes to begin to occur.

How Does The Spine Degenerate?

Usually, postural changes shift the way that our body places its weight on the spine. A change in this weight bearing means that your body puts pressure on areas of the spine that are not designed to carry the weight. For example when a person stands up perhaps the way they hold their head drives pressure through the bottom joints in the neck – or perhaps if they have a desk job and slouch at their desk all day, this would instead place constant pressure on the discs in the lower back. It therefore stands to reason that these joints are going to become arthritic a lot sooner than other joints higher up. The other joints may well also be bending further backwards or forwards than ideal, but may maintain a degree of normal alignment, which helps retain their condition. We often find that by re-orientating that person’s spine, taking the pressure off that section of the spine, you can slow down the degenerative process because it is just excessive loading above and beyond what those segments are designed to take.

Can Arthritis In The Spine Be Fixed or Slowed Down?

So, is this a problem that can be fixed? With the right treatment, the pain that accompanies this type of back condition can be managed, pressure can be relieved from that section of the spine, and slow that degenerative process. Using spinal orthotics, called Dennerolls, placed dependant on your condition, these help introduce a healthier curve back into your spine so you can start to shift your spinal position back into a normal range. Correcting the spinal alignment will help spine’s weight become equally transmissible up and down. This means the segments are taking their fair share of weight and no-one joint is overly stressed, which will slow town the progression of arthritis rapidly. This also means the spine is a lot healthier well into old age. We see time and time again in younger and older patients, they have specific pockets of degenerative change around areas of significant abnormality – we’re not talking about a 5-10% shift in alignment but instead a 30-60% deviation from normal. In this situation, if you have been told you have arthritis of the spine, finding someone who can accurately assess your spine and its alignment will be important. Here at The Mayfair Clinic, if clinically indicated we use standing X-ray imaging to view the spine in a weight-bearing position (i.e. standing up). In this position we can assess the condition of the spine, as well as examine the angles of the spine to see exactly by how much your spine has deviated from ideal.

 

So next time you go to the GP or if you’re told for the first time from your GP that you have arthritis at a specific joint in your spine and ‘don’t worry it happens to everyone’ – it’s a very unhelpful diagnosis so look for someone who can help by providing a logical, viable and reasonable strategy to help slow the arthritic process. Having treatment will decrease the inflammation and symptoms you’re suffering with, and then give you appropriate rehabilitation recommendations. Support through this process will make sure that the degenerative process is slowing and that it doesn’t occur in any other joints around the particularly degenerated segment, so you can be much more pain free going forwards.

We hope this article has been helpful for you, if you have any additional questions or comments regarding arthritis, please do get in touch with us through our social channels or via our website. To find out more on how we can help you, call us on 0203 947 3222 or email us at info@themayfairclinic.com.

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