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Degenerative Spine Conditions

  • What are Degenerative Spine Conditions?

    Degenerative spine conditions involve a gradual wear and tear of the discs, joints and bones of the spine and usually occurs in older people. These changes may later put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in further symptoms.

    Degenerative spinal changes may include:

    • Osteophytes (bone spurs/projections)
    • Decreased disc height
    • Loss of joint cartilage
    • Thickening of bone
  • Degenerative spine conditions are more common in people with:

    • A history of lower back pain or injury to the spine
    • Lifestyles involving large amounts of lifting, bending, twisting or sitting
  • Minor degeneration may cause few or no symptoms. As the condition progresses, the following may occur:

    • General lower back stiffness
    • Loss of spinal movement
    • Lower back pain

    With severe degeneration involving spinal cord or nerve compression, the following may occur:

    • Pain
    • 'Pins and needles' feeling
    • Weakness or numbness in the lower back, buttocks, groin, legs or feet

    Symptoms may worsen during activities that continuously straighten the spine or put weight on the spine like lifting, prolonged standing or walking. Symptoms usually ease during activities that bend the spine (sitting) or take weight off it (lying down).

  • Physiotherapy treatment for patients with spinal degeneration is important to help with pain relief and to improve flexibility and strength. Treatment may include:

    • A back brace or back taping
    • Activity adjustments advice
    • Dry needling (a type of acupuncture)
    • Electrotherapy (ultrasound)
    • Exercises to improve flexibility, strength and core stability
    • Hydrotherapy (exercises in water)
    • Ice or heat treatment
    • Mobilisation (gentle stretches to restore movement)
    • Pilates
    • Soft tissue massage
    • Traction (physiotherapist applies force to spine to relieve pressure)
    • Walking aids
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