Degenerative Back

If you have chronic back pain and have already received your diagnosis from your doctor, you may have heard the terms arthritis, osteoarthritis, or degenerative changes to describe the cause of your condition. If you have heard these terms from your doctor being used to describe your back problem, than you probably have had some changes the ligaments, discs, or facet joints in your back. These degenerative changes may have resulted in degenerative changes to the structures they were supposed to protect, namely the facets, vertebral bones, nerve roots, and spinal canal. Let's take a look at how changes to the ligaments, facet joints, and discs of your back can affect the health of your spine. Any degenerative changes that occur in your spine have the potential of causing a degenerative back condition and back pain.



The facet joints are among the most delicate structures of the human spine. While the facet joint that does contain cartilage and fibrous bands of connective tissue to prevent against excessive movements of the facets, the are not weight bearing joints. These facet joints may take excessive forces that they were not designed to bear if the intervertebral discs become damaged, or if the spinal ligaments that support them become loose or weakened. Spinal ligaments may become weaker as we get older, and the body may be unable to heal ligaments that become loosened due to injury or overuse. Lax ligaments contribute to wear and tear of the facet joints. If spinal ligaments such as the ligamentum flavum begin to sag - the facet joints may become misaligned, loose their stability, or wobbly. Ligaments may begin to have due to poor postural habits, such as poor posture and poor ergonomics. Most doctors accept that there are no effective current treatments available to treat slack ligaments. Prevention is the best treatment to keep ligaments from loosening, but correction of posture may reverse the changes done to the ligaments slightly or prevent the problem from getting any worse. Patients may restore most or all of this lost support for the spine through back exercises and abdominal exercises designed to increase the strength of the core muscles that support the spine.

The muscles designed to support and move the spine may also lose some of their strength, either due a loss in muscle mass that occurs due to age, or due to inactivity. Without an active lifestyle that includes sports or workouts, we are prone to loss of muscle mass as we get older. Our muscles may be able to affect how well our spine is supported; and conditions in the spine may also affect the muscles as well. The nerves that exit the spinal cord, and their smaller branches that divide off of them, are very sensitive to changes in the discs, ligaments, and facet joints, and they may respond to changes in these structures by going into spasm. Muscle spasms are an instinctual response by the body to freeze up that area around the joint, to stabilize the compromised structure. People that have had muscle spasms experience significant pain and stiffness in that area.