“I have back pain/symptoms because of my arthritis or degenerative disc disease…”  is a common statement I have heard over the past few years as a physiotherapist.

While there is some truth to the statement, does it give us the full picture? For many, it is described as the sole cause of the pain/symptoms that they are experiencing and that surgery may be the only option to relieve the symptoms or they will have to live with it forever. However, I believe that pain is not as clear cut as it may be lead to be believed and may not always require surgical intervention to reduce the pain/symptoms that is experienced.

In a 2014 systematic literature review of imaging features of spinal degeneration in asymptomatic populations, here was the findings:

As it is expressed in the table above, having spinal degeneration does not necessarily equate with having symptoms of pain or nerve-related symptoms (tingling, numbness).

To better understand the reason why it is best to take a step back and use an analogy. Imagine our body as a cup – the cup representing the amount of load/stress that our body can tolerate.

Examples of stressors/loads: poor sleep, tissue injury, anxiety, repetitive movements or lifting heavy loads

Each load/stress can play a significant or insignificant contribution to filling up space in the cup. For Example: Sleeping for 5 hours may be stressful for the body, but will be less stressful than sleeping for only 2 hours.

However way the cup is filled, once our cup is overflowing, we have pain.

This suggests 3 things:

1) Arthritis is a contributor to the pain, but not the only contributor

2) It is possible to reduce pain in the presence of arthritis

3) We have 2 ways to prevent our cup from overflowing

  1. a) increase the size of our cup
  2. b) decrease the amount of load/stress on our body

At Movement Performance Centre, there are multiple ways we can help with your symptoms.

Each of our services can uniquely work to improve our body’s ability to handle stress

1) Physical training and physiotherapy to enhance the size of the cup through challenging the body’s limits and reducing the stressors by optimizing movements

2) Nutrition to enhance our body’s ability to respond to stress through healthy foods

By taking this more global approach, this allows us to troubleshoot, speed up recovery and accelerate in meeting our client’s goals.

Author: Zachary Hum