“I’m Just Getting Old”

Achy joints, a twinge in the knee, or even a sharp pain from the shoulder to the elbow?  That’s all part of normal aging, right?

These are complaints that we commonly hear.  You may be surprised to learn that most often this is heard from people in their 40’s and 50’s.  This type of pain is a serious problem for these people because it can affect their livelihood and interaction with family and friends.

All too often, people assume joint pain is a normal part of aging; that we just have to learn to live with it.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s delve deeper for a minute.  When most people talk about pain associated with “getting old,” they’re usually referring to a variety of problems that can be thrown under the umbrella of Arthritis.  This type of arthritis is known as osteoarthritis, and doesn’t refer to inflammatory or Rheumatoid arthritis.  Osteoarthritis can be associated with things like: degenerative joint disease, bone spurs, degenerative disc disease, and spinal canal stenosis, to name a few.

Below is a side view x-ray of the neck.

Notice at the arrows, there is decreased space between the bones, and the shape of the bones themselves have changed.

Notice at the arrows, there is decreased space between the bones, and the shape of the bones themselves has changed.

This person is one of those we just talked about, and has had neck pain for the past month.  The red arrows are pointing to areas that have degenerative disc disease and are the result of many years of breakdown.  When seeing this damaged disc on their x-ray, they said, “That’s just because I’m getting old.”

Now, as someone approaches the middle of their life, there’s no question that there will be wear and tear of their spine.  That’s not the issue.  Rather, the extensive amount of damage to their lower neck, is.

Here’s an interesting question, how old are the healthy discs at the top of the neck?

It’s a trick question, because all of the discs are the same age.  So, if this problem was only due to aging, wouldn’t you expect every disc to have similar degeneration?


In the picture above, there are problems with the structure of the person’s spine.  When a structural problem occurs in the neck, a few things can happen.

  • The structure of the spine becomes distorted and speeds the wear and tear of the joints.  What happens to your car when the frame of it has shifted?  Would you expect the steering wheel to pull to one side or one of the tires to wear faster than the others?  This same concept happens to the joints in the spine!
  • The shift in the structure of the spine will hinder signals traveling to and from the brain.  This decrease in information from the brain to the rest of the body can cause dysfunction in the nervous system and will ultimately lead to secondary problems.

So, this person has had this problem in their spine for many years, but did not show any signs of neck pain until last month.  How is that possible?

Structural issues in the spine are often left undiagnosed for several years.  Research shows that many of us have herniated discs in the spine, but 60% will feel no pain or symptoms.  So, a problem that should be of great concern, may be decreasing the function of your body without you knowing it.

These problems are almost always preventable.  There are things you can do to reduce the amount of wear and tear on the spine and maintain full function of the body’s control and coordinating system, the nervous system:

  • Lose weight: if you are overweight, the first step is to shed the excess pounds
  • Exercise: walking, biking, weight lifting, jogging, or any activity that improves strength, endurance, and range of motion
  • If you smoke, QUIT: research has shown that smoking has an effect on bone health

You likely have your blood pressure, cholesterol, eyes, and of course your teeth checked to maintain optimal health.    Structural abnormalities which lead to breakdown of the joints in your spine can only be detected and corrected by a doctor who focuses on Neuro-Structural Correction.  Routine checks of your spine for structural abnormalities are critical to reducing your risk of arthritis and a variety of secondary problems.

Did you like this article?  Feel free to share it with the people you care about, and sign up to receive Updates from Keystone Chiropractic.  It may just be the next step in regaining your health.

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