The Ugly Truth About Joint Degeneration and Osteoarthritis
How many of you have been told you have osteoarthritis or joint degeneration? During my lectures, I like to ask the attendees to raise their hand if they have arthritis. I am never surprised to see the numerous amounts of hands that are raised. This is something that many of us in the health field encounter daily. One question that patients typically ask is WHY? Why do I have osteoarthritis and degeneration?
Degeneration of the spine is seen commonly in our population. Many of my patient’s X-rays show degeneration in very common locations, the mid neck, middle back and low back. There are two big reasons why these specific locations are present in many of my patients: Hypomobility and Hypermobility.
Hypomobility is a smaller range of motion than expected. Hypermobility is movement beyond the expected normal range of motion. These two things can occur due to bad posture and improper motion. There are three things to concentrate on for proper posture: Neck Stability, Shoulder Stability, and Core Stability. These are overlooked in today’s society.
Good Posture Bad Posture
The cervical region, or neck, is a common location of pain and degeneration. The head weighs eight to ten pounds. In a neutral position, the head is well balanced and puts zero pounds of pressure on the spine. For every inch the head hangs forward, it feels as if the weight of the head has doubled. This places a great deal of stress on the neck. When you hang your head forward, it causes the bottom of your neck to become hypomobile over time. To look straight ahead and not at the ground you then have to look up as seen in the Bad Posture picture with the chin jutted forward. This causes the upper neck to become stiff or hypomobile. This can lead to bone spurring.
Bone spurs are formed due to stress in that area. This is a way of protecting the spinal cord and nerves that are located at the spinal canal toward the back of the vertebra. Bone spurs show that there is a problem in that area that needs to be addressed. This degeneration can lead to pain and numbness in the arms and hands. The following is the progression of degeneration.
Another instability that can lead to degeneration of the spine is shoulder instability. Shoulder instability is very prevalent in our population. Many people walk around with their shoulders rolled forward in a slumped forward posture. This is due to having weak mid back muscles and strong chest muscles. The shoulder is in a stable position when the shoulder blades are down and back as in the Good Posture picture above. The Bad Posture picture above shows a slumped forward posture. This posture causes an increase in the curve of the back. An increased pressure is then applied to the disc leading to degeneration of the spine. Also, when the shoulders are rolled forward, it puts an increased pressure on the rotator cuff muscles due to the tightness in the muscles. This can increase the likelihood of a rotator cuff tear. Shoulder blade stability allows stress to be taken off the front of the shoulder. It also helps take pain away from the area between the shoulder blades.