So you’ve been told you have degeneration in your spine, you’ve googled it and it’s shown some pretty scary things, but what does this really mean and what can you do about it?

Firstly it is important to point out that degenerative spine is not an uncommon diagnosis and it is very normal to be concerned about what it means to your back pain and your ability to continue doing the activities that you enjoy.

In fact many studies have found that it is normal to have a degree of degeneration present in an MRI scan. A recent study showed that over 50% of individuals had degeneration when scanned, regardless of whether they report symptoms or not (Takatalo et al, 2009).

In studies which have looked at patient’s interpretation of the language used in MRI reports, it has been shown that the language used, is phrased in a way that doesn’t help inform a patient and instead raises anxiety (Bossen, Hageman, King, & Ring, 2013). As a result it is perfectly normal to be worried by a diagnosis given from an MRI but something that we should to a degree take with a pinch of salt.

One of the main problems with imaging and scans is that they are incredibly sensitive and hence are great at finding things, even if they are what would be considered normal changes within someone’s spine. Studies have also shown that when radiographers are given a scan to try and predict if someone is reporting symptoms, there is a very poor accuracy in predicting what the patient might be feeling (Takatalo et al, 2011).

So what does this tell us about degenerative spine?

Mainly, that having a diagnosis of degeneration is quite normal and rather than be too focused on this ‘diagnosis’, as this only tells you part of the picture.

Instead it is best to start focusing on how you can help strengthen your muscles around your back, increase the available movement without pain and build confidence in your back again. 

There have been many studies completed to try and find the most effective intervention to help someone suffering with low back pain and a diagnosis of degeneration. These studies show that exercise therapy is more often than not more effective than surgical intervention, when patients are followed up at similar time intervals.

A good physiotherapist will be able to take you through a thorough analysis and be able to help build a plan, to get you back to your normal activities. This will be achieved by first treating the symptoms with a number of advanced musculo-skeletal techniques. Then tailoring your plan around what your goals are and what movements or positions you are struggling with. From there the emphasis will switch to enabling you to strengthen the muscles around the spine and increase mobility, to allow you to return to the activities you enjoy.

So in summary, do not panic about your diagnosis, it is very normal to have degeneration to different structures and at different levels within the spine.  The important thing is that you get a professionals opinion on how you can do something positive about it, to get you back to the things you love and ultimately living a perfectly normal life.

We’re offering you a free, expert online consultation with an experienced Synergy Physiotherapist.

We’ll talk to you about how your back problem is affecting your everyday life and then tell you exactly how we could help you to get the old you back. Just click below, enter you details, and one of our Specialists will give you a call back to confirm your booking. 

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