Aging and Your Spine

Aging and your spine.

As we age, our bodies begin to change in ways we might not imagine until they're a part of our reality. The body's skin, bones and muscles all experience degeneration as time goes on. While it may be easy to notice when our skin begins to show signs of aging, it's not always easy to see such changes on the inside of our bodies until we experience symptoms such as back and neck pain, stiffness and numbness—all of which are signs of an aging spine. But the wear-and-tear process starts long before we notice any symptoms, with degeneration of our discs starting as early as our first decade of life!

Degeneration tends to be more common in the lower back and neck, with the first outward signs of a degenerating spine typically appearing as lower back pain between the ages of 30 and 50. While we cannot do anything to escape the aging process, there are some things that you—and a chiropractor—can do to help keep your spine healthy as you age.

How Aging Affects the Spine

The spine is a flexible column made up of multiple segments of bone (vertebrae) and discs. The consistency of a disc is rubbery, similar to gelatin. As we age, our discs begin to wear down. Along with thinning, degenerating discs may be accompanied by inflammation, pain and stiffness. Disc degeneration can also contribute to the narrowing of the spinal canal (open spaces within our spine). This narrowing creates pressure on the spinal cord and is referred to as spinal stenosis, a condition that can cause lower back pain, pinched nerves, numbness and weakness in the legs. If the jelly-like center of the disc begins to ooze out, as happens when the disc is herniated, it can impinge upon the spinal cord—an additional cause of pain and inflammation.

Other conditions related to aging that impact our spine include arthritis and osteoporosis. While arthritis typically occurs in the joints, it can also affect the bones in the spine. Osteoporosis is a condition that develops as our bones lose density over time. While women are more susceptible to developing osteoporosis, it's important for us all to be mindful of the spine as we age regardless of gender, as loss of bone density can happen to men as well, and this causes vertebrae to become brittle and more susceptible to fractures.

Three Stages of Spinal Degeneration

Spinal degeneration.

There are three stages of spinal degeneration that may be experienced with age. During stage 1, the discs begin to lose volume due to fluid loss. This phase may progress faster when a person has a disease. There are usually no symptoms at this point, but it can lead to pain, issues with the joints and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) later on. Stage 2 spinal degeneration can be detected via bone scans, as the natural curve of the spine will begin to fade. The space originally occupied by discs will start to narrow, and the discs will begin to bulge between the vertebrae. During this stage, a person may also start to grow bone spurs on their spinal joints and the joint surfaces will become rough. These changes cause the body to become less stable. By stage 3, the spinal curve will be further gone, and the discs will continue to degenerate—with more narrowing of the spaces between vertebrae and greater likelihood of herniated discs and bone spurs. There may also be spinal stenosis and ankylosis, or fusion of the vertebrae.

Chiropractic Treatment for Spinal Degeneration

Chiropractors’ main focus is the preservation of spinal health. This is why it’s recommended to seek chiropractic care before there is a problem or pain. Chiropractors can detect degenerating discs via imaging tests such as x-rays before you have noticed any discomfort. If signs of degeneration are present, our goals are to help care for the spine to relieve pain and slow down the degeneration process, often through regular spinal adjustments or a procedure known as flexion-distraction, a gentle form of traction. This process realigns the vertebrae, restores motion, decreases inflammation and minimizes added wear and tear. Other interventions may include recommending stretches to help loosen any tight muscles that are contributing to pain along with exercises that help strengthen back muscles and improve posture. Diet is also important for a healthy spine as we age, so nutritional counseling may be offered as well.

Why Seek Chiropractic Care for Spinal Degeneration?

Degenerative disc disease.

Chiropractors can detect degeneration in its early stages before it causes big problems. And research suggests that chiropractic care is an effective method for treating spinal issues related to aging in a less invasive manner than many treatment methods that may be recommended by medical doctors. This makes regular spinal adjustments a good first line of defense for treating back pain, or simply getting proactive about spinal health.

You can do your part to keep your spine healthy by avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. Keeping active and moving—along with receiving chiropractic treatment—is the best way to help prevent or alleviate back pain as we grow older. Since spinal degeneration starts early and is not reversible, it's never too soon to start getting regular adjustments. In addition to spinal correction, we can recommend additional therapies to help alleviate aches and pains that have developed over the years. No one should have to suffer or feel like major surgery is the only answer for back pain when chiropractic treatment can help.

Reviews By Our Satisfied Patients

  • "I've been coming to see Dr. Bob since 1984 for my back pain. After each visit, the vast improvement lasts about one whole month. Even after all these years, Dr. Bob continues to provide outstanding care for me, my children, and my grandchildren. I've referred several people to HealthWise Chiropractic, so they too can see the results I have. My favorite part of my visits is the friendliness and professionalism of the staff and doctors and, of course, the results I get that improve my daily living."
    Danny S.
  • "About ten years ago I was at the gym, I bent over and couldn't get up, the pain was horrible. I contacted Healthwise and Dr. Mike gave me an emergency appointment that evening. He did a complete physical and x-ray before he started any treatment. After my first treatment I was able to stand up and walk with minimal pain. With a few visits I was back to normal. I continued treatments as needed for the next several years.
    I see Dr. Bob regularly to stay fit and pain-free. He tests my strength and weakness to determine the best treatment. Our open discussion led him to help my acid reflux. I now exercise and walk as is essential for a septuagenarian.
    I told Dr. Bob that I was starting to get knee pain that I thought was arthritis; I didn't think chiropractic care could help. He told me about new equipment to help. I look forward to improvement.
    I was a skeptic of chiropractic care, now I would recommend HealthWise to anyone with chronic/simple pain. It worked for me. It can work for you!"
    Sherry B.
  • "I was very miserable with constant pain in my leg while knowing it had something to do with my back. My friend surprised me with an appointment with Dr. Bob. After being treated by Dr. Bob I knew right away it was exactly what I needed. I learned a lot through my conversations with the doctor. I am really thankful to Dr. Bob and his staff."
    Ed L.
  • "I had a very limited understanding of chiropractic care until I tried it for the first time 12 years ago. I came in with severe pain in my neck, which prohibited me from moving my head. I was greeted by a kind staff, had an exam and x-rays done on my first appointment followed by an adjustment. I felt so much better after my first adjustment and by following the treatment plan my headaches and migraines improved. My overall health has improved because of chiropractic care. Dr. Bob helps make sure that I am taking the right supplements to optimize my health and fitness performance. They have helped me with allergies, knee and shoulder pain, and earaches. I had no idea when I began my chiropractic journey just how much help the doctors and staff at HealthWise would be at improving my quality of life."
    Britt H.
  • "I have been a patient at HealthWise Chiropractic for over 20 years. In the past and currently I am seeing Dr. Bob, however, I have seen all docs at Healthwise. My general issues are usually seasonally related to sinus and allergies. Recently I have been receiving treatment for my hip and lower back. Dr. Bob zeros in on trigger points and quickly relieves my pain. He is a wealth of knowledge and offers help and suggestion on my health issues. The staff is friendly and helpful. I leave feeling better and I believe helps to keep my body aligned and energized. I have also come in after falls, injuries and surgeries. I truly believe my adjustments at the time added to a quicker recovery."
    Liz B.
  • "I have been a patient of Dr. Bob for two and half months. . I see him for an adjustment every two weeks. I started seeing a chiropractor for the first time in January 2021 while working in Florida for my continued lower back pain and chronic bilateral hip bursitis. Because my pain was mostly relieved with continued adjustments, I decided to continue with treatment when returning to Wisconsin. I have been very happy with my continued pain relief/adjustments at HealthWise. I highly recommend anyone with chronic back and neck pain to try chiropractic adjustments here at HealthWise. It will make your life better."
    Marianne V.
  • "Really enjoyed the different things that they can do for you and your pain management. Would highly recommend."
    Rhiannon P.
  • "I enjoy coming, getting readjusted and any additional therapies. It has made my life healthier and less stressful. If I have questions, they are answered at that visit. The staff is very professional, personable and friendly. I always look forward to my next visit with them. I am glad to be part of Healthwise Chiropractic family:)"
    Marcella L.
  • "Dr. Mike is fantastic! He is very personable….will take time to really to your needs… I enjoy my visits…the maintenance has helped tremendously…..and he is there when the emergency pops up! Excellent Chiropractor!"
    Ann W.

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