by Dr. Whitney James, MD
As I tell my patients, degeneration of the spine is part of being human. Approximately 60% of people will have radiographic evidence of spinal degeneration by the time they turn 60. Almost 100% of people will have spinal degeneration by the time they turn 80. It is a normal human condition.
The age of onset for spinal degeneration varies. Genetics and environmental exposure come into play in determining when degeneration begins. For example, it is not uncommon to see degenerative disease in a young gymnast in her teens, or a young service member in his early 20s. This is in large part due to the enormous physical toll their bodies undergo in their daily work.
On the other hand, I see patients in their 60s and 70s who were blessed with great genetics, have always taken care of their bodies, and present with few signs of degeneration.
Of patients who have evidence of spinal degeneration on X-ray, CT or MRI, only 20% will actually have symptoms related to the degeneration.
Symptoms of spinal degeneration include neck and back pain, arm and leg pain, difficulty walking, and changes with urination. One of the most common signs of symptomatic spinal degeneration is the tendency to lean forward when walking, such as leaning forward on the shopping cart. Other common signs include dropping things with one’s hands and difficulty with balance.
One of the best gifts you can give yourself or someone you love this holiday season is therapeutic treatment for symptoms of spinal degeneration.
There are many treatments for degenerative spine ranging from non-invasive to minimally invasive to maximally invasive therapies. Oftentimes, a combination of therapies results in a cure of most or all symptoms.
If you or anyone you know are experiencing symptoms of degenerative spine, make an appointment with your primary care provider to go over your symptoms and next steps for treatment.
Degenerative spine is a natural condition, but one need not suffer from it. Give the gift of pain freedom and reversal of disability this holiday season.