Have you ever seen a large SAILBOAT? Picture the Mast on the Boat. What is attached to it? RIGGINGS. Lots and lots of Riggings. If those Riggings are not there, the Mast on the Boat falls over. The Mast can’t support its own weight without all those lines attached to it. Our Spine is Similar. The Human Spine relies on all the Muscles, Tendons, and Ligaments Attaching to it in order to support it. Without these Attachments, our Spine would break into pieces!!!! Similar to SHIP WRECK.
When the Muscles attaching to the Spine are Tight, Weak, or Improperly balanced, the Spine experiences Torques in suboptimal ways and Increased Pressures are placed on the Inter-Vertebral Discs and the small Facet Joints in the Spine as well as other Spinal Structures.
Over Time, these Increased Pressures can lead to Disc Tears, Neck & Lower Back Arthritis, Spondilitis, and eventually Back Pain & followed by Sufferings.
AGEING & DISC DEGENERATION:
In the normal course of Ageing, usually after the age of 45 -50 (Women appear to me more affected than Men) the Vertebrae begin to deteriorate losing their Bone Density and form Bony Spurs. These Bony Spurs grow into the Nerve Canal and can apply pressure to the Nerve root. Less frequently the bony spurs can grow into the spinal canal and put pressure on the cord itself.
To compound the problem, the degeneration of the Vertebrae also reduces the blood supply to the Inter-Vertebral Disc. As the blood supply from the beds of the vertebrae is reduced the disc begins to Atrophy, losing its Water content and thus Disc height. This will begin to cause symptoms similar to DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE @ the levels of Cervical & Lumbo Sacral regions.
OTHER CAUSES LEADING TO DISC DEGENERATION:
- Being Overweight and not Exercising
- People who Smoke Excessively
- Having a job that requires Heavy Lifting or a lot of Bending and Twisting
- Past Neck or Back Injury (often several years before)
- Past Spine Surgery
- Ruptured or Slipped disk
- Severe Arthritis
- Small Fractures to the Spine from Osteoporosis
All the above lead to The Loss of Fluid in the Discs (This reduces the ability of the discs to act as shock absorbers and makes them less flexible. Loss of fluid also makes the disc thinner and narrows the distance between the vertebrae). Tiny Tears or Cracks in the Outer Layer (Annulus or Capsule) of the Disc. The Jellylike material inside the Disc (Nucleus) may be forced out through the Tears or Cracks in the capsule, which causes the Disc to Bulge, Break open (Rupture), or Break into Fragments.
A Sudden (Acute) Injury leading to a Herniated Disc (such as a fall) may also begin the degeneration process. As the space between the Vertebrae gets smaller, there is less padding between them, and the Spine becomes less stable. The body reacts to this by constructing bony growths called Bone Spurs (Osteophytes). Bone spurs can put pressure on the Spinal Nerve roots or Spinal Cord, resulting in Pain and affecting Nerve Function.
PROCESS OF PROGRESSIVE DEGENERATION:
There is a Systematic Progression that the Degeneration follows.
- The Osmotic Properties of the Disc change
- The Decrease in Water Content occurs
- Loss of Disc Height and Ability to Expand
- Irregularities occur on the End plate of the Vertebrae
- Hardening of the Disc Tissue
- Formation of Bone Spurs and Osteophytes on the Vertebrae
People are many times X-Rayed and diagnosed with Cervical & Lumbar Spondylosis but do not have any symptoms. As the Degeneration progresses though, between the Bony Spurs and the Loss of Disc Height, the Nerves and Spinal Cord become impinged Causing a Range of Symptoms from Simple Localized Pain to Disc Pain with Radiculopathy (is the radiation of symptoms away from just the neck area into the extremities; a leading cause of chronic shoulder pain. It is also common for the symptoms to radiate into the arms and fingers) & Myelopathy (Impacts the Spinal Cord and is associated with the Loss of Motor Skills necessary for things requiring some co-ordination such as Knitting).
THREE STAGES OF SYMPTOMS:
Typically the Symptoms proceed through 3 Defined Chronic and Slowly Progressive stages. In rare cases, about 5%, the onset of symptoms will be quite rapid.
The First Stage is CERVICAL OR LUMBAR RADICULOPATHY:
- Headaches in the Neck and Back of the Head
- Pain, Tingling and Numbness radiating into the Shoulders, Arms and Fingers
- Tight Muscles and Spasms in the Shoulders and Upper Back
The Second Stage is CERVICAL OR LUMBAR MYELOPATHY:
- Difficulty Walking, Sitting, Sleeping & doing daily normal works
- Bladder and Bowel Dysfunction
- Wasting of small and big Muscles
The Third Stage is AXIAL JOINT PAIN WITH VASCULAR DISTURBANCES IN THE PELVIC AREAS INCLUDING THE GENITALS:
- Mechanical Arthritis Neck Pain & Back Pain – making it painful for the neck and Lower Back to be in some positions for prolonged periods of time
- Facet Joint Syndrome
- Discogenic pain originating from the deteriorating disc
- ED PME in Males & PCOD, Harmonal Imbalances, Dyspareunia, Lubrication Problems, Frigidity etc.
WHY & HOW AYURVEDA IN DEGENERATIVE DISC?
Ayurveda helps to Prevent, Slow, or Even Reverse Disc Degeneration, if treated at an early Stage of the Disease. DHATU POSHAKA (DHATU VARDHAKA) & BRUMHANA CHIKITSA helps in Limiting Disc Degeneration or even inducing Disc Regeneration.
While Allopathic Current Strategies aim to remove the Pain Generator through Surgery, Ayurveda’s modalities like Meru Chikitsa, Marma Chikitsa along with Ayurveda Panchakarma Chikitsa along with Kati Vasthi, Greeva Vasthi aim to reverse the Degenerative Cascade. But the Treatments are to be planned according to the Patient’s Body Constitution (PRAKRUTHI) & under the Specialist Doctor’s supervision only.