The Commonly UN-Addressed Contributor Of Spinal Degeneration?

Degenerative Disc Disease | Spine Associates | Back to normal...

The Commonly UN-Addressed Contributor

Of Spinal Degeneration?

The spinal degeneration model is a key teaching tool in most Chiropractic clinics. In fact, you will see it in the offices of many types of health and wellness providers. The reason we see it so frequently is simple:

Loss of spinal integrity and mobility clearly contributes to many pain syndromes and disabilities. But, even more importantly, the spine is designed to PROTECT the central nervous system. When the spine dysfunctions or degenerates, it fails to optimally protect and will actually INTERFERE with the CNS. Thus, the effects go beyond pain and disability and create dis-ease. We ALL know that … Right? We would assume so. But the first question in this blog piece is this:

Do we DO all we can to help our patients avoid this chronic, progressive and serious condition which threatens their spinal health and our overall wellness?

We routinely share the stats about the percentages of Americans who are overweight and obese. Whether from information we share or by simple observation, we surely ALL know by now that the numbers are, literally, epidemic. Right?

The truth is those same stats likely apply right into the patient bases of most chiropractors and other health clinics. So, if that’s the case, why aren’t there more wellness-based doctors addressing this condition for their patients and helping them avoid and/or deal with spinal degeneration?

Although it seems like common sense that more weight means more stress to the spine, perhaps it would be beneficial to reference just a few studies on this topic. Note: these studies are not recent – which simply proves the point that this is not a new realization and yet is being left unaddressed.

A study in the journal of the American College of Rheumatology entitled “The association of lumbar inter-vertebral disc degeneration on magnetic resonance imaging with body mass index in overweight and obese adults: A population‐based study” shared this as its conclusion:

“Our findings, in one of the largest studies to systematically assess lumbar disc degeneration on MRI, indicated a significant association between the presence, extent, and global severity of disc degeneration with weight in overweight and obese adults”.


Again, this is nothing new! That study was first published over a decade ago (January 27, 2012) and done by Dino Samartzis et all. Of course, this seems like a very reliable study and source when we read straight from their website:

“Arthritis & Rheumatology, an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology, is a peer-reviewed publication for scientists and clinicians interested in the natural history, pathophysiology, treatment, and outcome of the rheumatic diseases. The journal publishes the highest quality basic and clinical research related to the rheumatic diseases, encompassing a wide range of areas of investigative activity. In addition, Arthritis & Rheumatology publishes review articles, editorials, and other educational material intended for both researchers and clinicians”.

Below is an image that clearly shows what we are drawing attention to here. If you’ve been in practice any time at all, you’ve likely seen images just like this. The compressive effect of an individual carrying excess pounds is simple to deduct when we pause and consider it. Are you sharing this truth with your patients?

Degenerative Disc Disease | Wake Spine & Pain Specialists

Another quick but pertinent reference is research done by Kalichman, Guermazi and Hunter affiliated with the Division of Research, New England Baptist Hospital, Boston, MA and the Department of Radiology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. They published a study entitled “Association between age, sex, BMI and CT-evaluated spinal degeneration features.”

Among their findings …

“Significantly higher prevalence of facet joint OA was found in the obese group …”

And their conclusion statement …

“Marked differences in the prevalence of spinal degeneration features occur in association with age, sex and obesity”.

One last study from the International Journal of Obesity, entitled “Disc degeneration of the lumbar spine in relation to overweight” by M. Like et al and published May 17, 2005 shared these results:

“Multiple regression analyses allowing for occupation, history of car driving, smoking, and back injuries showed that persistent overweight (body mass index (BMI) ≥25 kg/m2 at both ages) associated strongly with an increased risk of the number of lumbar discs with decreased signal intensity of nucleus pulposus at follow-up …”

Maybe right now you are saying “THANK YOU MR. OBVIOUS!” That would be understandable since such findings really do seem like no-brainer kind of information. That is especially true for any practitioner who has any degree of experience with spinal care, radiology, etc. Our hope in sharing such studies is simple:

We want to bring awareness and a strong sense of reality to the fact that too many patients suffer with spinal degeneration related to their obesity.

So, one last question …

If a doctor is claiming to “FIX THE CAUSE” of spinal dysfunction and/or degeneration, yet they fail to address an evident weight issue, are they functioning in full CONGRUENY?

Just something to think about.

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