Degeneration in the spine strikes fear into us. The thought of disc bulges, trapped nerves and irreversible damage leading to us ending up needing surgery or being in a wheelchair. But should we really be worried about degeneration in the spine?
There are things you need to look out for – things we call red flags. I have written elsewhere about this so won’t labour on it. these red flags do need to be taken seriously, but otherwise “natural” wear and tear in the spine shouldn’t concern us too much. It may cause some transient, intermittent back pain, however we can stay on top of it with posture awareness, lifestyle modification, exercises and of course physiotherapy.
To highlight my point consider the chart below:
You will see that wear and tear in the spine starts in our 20’s. Most people report to physio in their 30’s and 40’s with back pain, and you can see that 68% of people have degenerative discs and 60% disc bulges at this age. Fast forward to your 70′ and 80’s and nearly 90% have degeneration and disc bulges. So what we can take from this is degeneration in the spine is a natural ageing process that will cause some back pain from time to time.
What we also know is that we can stay on top of it ourselves with physiotherapy support and the daily use of a spinal mobility, stretching and core stability exercise programme. Like the dentist will tell you – you have to floss and brush your teeth everyday or you will have tooth decay. Well – consider that the physio is now telling you – you need to do your core work every day or you are going to have back pain.