Osteoarthritis (Spinal Decay)

The Tragic Effect of Spinal Decay – Osteoarthritis


Spinal Decay taken from Professor Kirkaldy Willis' Book -


It is not the Years – It is the Mileage (Indiana Jones)

Your body adapts to uncorrected spinal stress by depositing calcium into affected joints. This process is called Spinal Decay although you may know it as Osteoarthritis.

It is as if the body if trying to mend a broken bone and attempts to “repair” the malfunctioning spinal joint by joining the two segments together, preventing any normal movement between the joints.

Spinal Decay occurs over time in stages.

Doctors describe the process in three defined phases:

The first phase of spinal decay is revealed as a loss of proper spinal curve or a reduced ability to turn and bend. Other areas of the spine often compensate, starting a chain reaction of health problems.

Left uncorrected, the body responds by depositing calcium onto the affected joint surfaces, ligaments and connective tissues. This second phase of decay is the result of the body’s attempt to stabilize and “splint” the malfunctioning spinal joint. As with high blood pressure or cancer, pain or other obvious symptoms are often absent. Unaware of the serious damage that is occurring, many allow their problem to worsen.

In the third phase of spinal decay, the integrity of the spine has become permanently compromised. The associated neurological damage can contribute to some of the chronic health problems seen in the elderly. Years have passed since the original event that set this tragic, yet preventable, process in motion.

The purpose of care is to locate areas of the spine that are not working right and use specific corrections to improve its function and structure. This simple but powerful intervention has helped millions avoid the crippling effects of spinal decay.


The Result of Uncorrected Spinal Mis-alignment

Spinal decay is a degenerative process that worsens with time. If neglected or simply ignored, this crippling condition quietly progresses, without obvious symptoms.

It starts with some type of uncorrected trauma to the spine. A slip or fall. A car accident. Learning to walk. Even the birth process may be responsible!

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Spinal Stenosis and Decay

What does Spinal Decay look like?

This is an “inside” view of the lumbar spine (low back). The spine has been cut down the middle so we can see the inner workings of the vertebral column.

The numbers in white represent the vertebral bodies of the lumbar spine (i.e. L2, L3, L4 and L5).

In this specimen you can see very clearly the “open” nerve windows at the top of the photo as opposed to the “closed” nerve windows lower down the spine.

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Spinal Stenosis and Decay

The Chiropractic Approach

Spinal Decay is the barometer of spinal health. Yet we need not sit and passively await our spine’s destruction.

Chiropractic corrections can decrease the rate of spinal decay and improve the chances of the joints, nerves, discs and other tissues remaining healthy and strong throughout our lifetime. This is done by restoring normal mechanics to the spine.

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Text Book Normal

  • The vertebral bodies are clear and well defined
  • There is a smooth backward curve
  • The backs and front of the vertebra all line up
  • There are no bone spurs or osteophytes
  • There is no calcification of any ligaments

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Phase 1 – Dysfunction

  • Stiffness and/or dull intermittent back pains with occasional sharp twinges, which appear to “go away” spontaneously, with rest, ice or heat.
  • Pain often localised in the back or refers down the upper or lower extremity.
  • Painful movement of the back particularly when attempting to lift or whilst changing posture i.e. sitting to standing.
  • Slight numbness and/or coldness either in the arms and hands or the legs and feet.
  • Generally attacks occur with sport or upon repetitive loaded activity.


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Phase 2 – Instability

  • Sharp and acute painful episodes, back “gives away” and “catches” on simple movements.
  • Dull constant pain but with intermittent sharp pain that radiates out into either the arms or hands or into the groin, thigh and legs.
  • Sharp ‘knife like’ pain whilst attempting to change posture as in bending forward to a standing position or whilst attempting to sit up from a lying position.
  • Numbness and tingling constant in hands, fingers or feet and toes.
  • Continuing coldness to an extremity region with occasional blueness of the area. Most commonly either hands and fingers or the feet and toes.

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Phase 3 – Fusion

  • Chronic dull back pain with bouts of frequent prolonged acute debilitation.
  • Weather changes reflect increased susceptibility to both pain and continuing disability associated generally with other “arthritic conditions”.
  • Constant requirement for medication.
  • Significant limitation to daily activity coupled with constant pain.
  • Additional symptoms including discitis and epidural fibrosis (fibrosis around spinal cord).

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