The 3 Stages of Spinal Degeneration

While spinal degeneration has its most detrimental effect in later stages of lives the process often starts at much younger ages.   Often times as a chiropractor we will see early signs of degeneration and even arthritis in patients as young as their early twenties.  This article is a discussion of what some of the early signs are how chiropractic can help.


Stage 1 – Dysfunction
As the spine begins to deteriorate, its curvature begins to change and show signs of misalignment.  This change in curvature causes a significant change the loading mechanisms of the spine changes causing increased rate of degeneration.  Weakness of spinal muscles and ligaments also occur.  Often at this stage there will be little to no pain associated with the changes.   This makes it very difficult to find and treat at this stage.  Often the early signs are found incidentally while looking for more sinister injuries during falls or crashes.

Stage 2 – Dehydration of spinal discs and beginning of spurring. 
At this stage of degeneration changes in the spinal loading mechanisms has taken place for several years most likely and our spine is responding to that.   Discs of our spine begin to dehydrate and shrink in size.  Our vertebrae begin to develop bone spurs responding to the increased pressure loads.   Roughening of the joint surfaces begins as well.   As a result of all these changes mobility is reduce and often symptoms have usually appeared.

Stage 3 – Stabilization
This is the late stage of spinal degeneration.  At this stage severe remodeling of the bones and decrease of joint space causes for a severe loss of mobility.   Bone spurs continue to grow and can narrow the spinal canal, which presses onto the spinal cord or nerve roots.  This condition, called spinal stenosis, triggers pressure that can cause limb pain, tingling, and numbness.  During this stage, patients may find they lose control of the legs. Some patients will also lose the ability to close their eyes and know whether one of their limbs is raised or lowered.

Late stage spinal degeneration will almost certainly affect your ability to go about your normal activities.  Unfortunately there is very little that can be done to reverse the effects of spinal degeneration.   The key is to locate a problem before it is too late to make considerable changes.

Chiropractic treatment for spinal degeneration
Chiropractors are trained to look for early warning signs of spinal degeneration. If the condition is caught early enough, spinal manipulations along with specific exercises and traction can correct problems in the spine before permanent damage is done.  If you already live with an advanced state of spinal degeneration, chiropractic care can help relieve painful symptoms but there is little evidence that the degenerative changes themselves can be reversed.

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