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Discs Need Oxygen Too!

One of the underlying factors that contribute to degenerative disc disease is a poor oxygen supply to the discs. They don’t get oxygen directly from the blood stream because there are no blood vessels to the discs. Instead, the oxygen diffuses through the endplates of the vertebrae. There are three primary things that will impair oxygenation of the discs and accelerate the arthritis.

Photo courtesy of Michael Dorausch

Photo courtesy of Michael Dorausch

1. Smoking – When you smoke the discs can’t get the amount of oxygen they need. This is why smokers have a much higher incidence of low back pain and are slower to heal.
2. Sitting – Movement is needed to squish fluid in and out of the discs. Sitting stagnates the fluid in the center of the disc and they dry out as a result. In fact, researchers are now calling sitting the new smoking.
3. Arthritis – If you already have arthritis in your spine, you are set up to get more. That’s because the endplates of the vertebrae get thicker which makes it more difficult for the oxygen to diffuse through.

So what can you do to help? Quit smoking, don’t sit as much and avoid arthritis! That was helpful wasn’t it? In reality though, if your job requires sitting, simply get up every half hour and march on the spot for a minute. At home, watch less tv and you’ll automatically sit less. As far as arthritis goes, keeping your spine healthy is always better than trying to fix it once it’s broken. But the same principles for a healthy spine apply to an arthritic one; keep it moving and get the muscles strong and coordinated. In other words, adjustments and exercise is the answer. Many people live long pain-free lives with arthritis.

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