Degeneration Phase 1
The first stage of spinal degeneration (aka spinal arthritis) is the onset of a minor loss of normal spine motion and alignment. This can be accompanied by a loss or reduction of the three normal curves of the spine, especially in the neck. Various parts of the spine, such as nerves, discs, bones, ligaments, cartilage and joints, begin to breakdown because they are now under continual, increased mechanical stress and strain. This stage of the degeneration process can be painless. In other cases, it is accompanied with mild to moderate, but intermittent, achiness, stiffness, and pain. If left unattended, it can increase the risk of further injury and breakdown. At this stage, there is a good chance that you can return to normal with proper care. Restoring normal motion and alignment eliminates the mechanical stress that is causing the tissue breakdown in the first place.
Degeneration Phase 2
In the second stage of spinal degeneration, there is the additional onset of disc narrowing and bone spur formation as the breakdown process advances. Your body posture is often beginning to degenerate, further away from the normal curves. Significant, more consistent aches and pains commonly begin here. Body fatigue and emotional stress are more common at this stage. The breakdown process and ensuing stiffness saps the body’s energy. There is still a good chance of improvement at this stage with the proper care. But full correction will take longer now, because the problem has progressed.
Degeneration Phase 3
In the third stage of spinal degeneration, there is even more significant arthritic changes to the spine. Emotional and mental fatigue can also begin to climb. The spinal changes include larger bone spur growth, advanced disc narrowing, increased spinal stiffness and decreased endurance. There is a greater chance for more long-lasting nerve damage and subsequent loss of health and vitality in other tissues and organs. There is commonly a significant loss of energy and height at this point, as the spine takes on more advanced abnormal curvatures. Pain relief, to varying degrees, is still possible. However, full restoration of range of motion and strength to spinal joints and muscles is not likely.
Degeneration Phase 4
In the fourth stage of spinal degeneration, most damage is permanent, including scar tissue, nerve damage, muscle atrophy and spinal deformation. At this point, the arthritic condition is irreversible. The spine is now very stiff, possibly fused in areas. Muscles have atrophied further and become very tight, with minimal capacity for work and endurance. This generally makes the patient exhausted just getting through the day. Management of pain, not pain resolution, and preventing further loss of function and endurance is the best option here.
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