Dealing with Arthritis
Tuesday January 1, 2019

How to Eliminate Back Pain (Part 5):

Dealing with Arthritis

by Dr. Troy Vander Molen, PT, DPT

This month we complete our five-part series 5 Reasons Why Your Back Hurts When You Walk by tackling a scary subject: ARTHRITIS.

Ames Kinetic Edge-84Many people with lower back pain who I’ve treated over the years describe a pain that increases with standing and/or walking. Research indicates that if you are over 55 years old, have pain in your lower back with walking or standing, and it goes away when you sit, there is a 97% chance you have arthritis in your spine. With odds like that, you don’t need an expensive diagnostic test to confirm this finding.

Arthritis predisposes you to spine pain while walking, but it doesn’t have to be a problem for you. Don’t believe me? That’s okay. I know it sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. The research supports the fact that degenerative changes of the spine are absolutely normal.

A 2014 article in the American Journal of Neuroradiology reviewed all of the scientific literature of diagnostic testing that was done on people that had no complaints of pain. This study found that arthritic changes were common in people that had lower back pain complaints (Figure 1), and the prevalence of these findings increased with age. In fact, the authors concluded that “many imaging-based degenerative features are likely part of normal aging.”

Figure 1. Age-specific prevalence estimates of degenerative spine imaging findings in asymptomatic patients
Figure 1. Age-specific prevalence estimates of degenerative spine imaging findings in asymptomatic patients


Imagine that. If you are 30 years old and do no have disk degeneration, you are in the minority. And if you are 60 years old, you are 88% likely to have disk degeneration. And this is also true for people with no back pain issues!

As a result of this information, many doctors are now indicating that arthritic changes are as normal as wrinkles on your face. If there are so many people walking around with no back pain but still with arthritic changes in their spine, it can only be concluded that those issues are not necessarily changes that contribute to the experience of pain.

The key is making sure that your spine – and the surrounding joints – have the appropriate balance between mobility and stability. If each link in the kinetic chain is capable of doing what it was designed to do, then you will be able to walk without pain despite the diagnosis of arthritis.

Don’t let the diagnosis of arthritis be an excuse to do nothing. You are not destined for a life of lower back pain because you have this condition. A mobile spine surrounded by strong muscles will reduce pain in an arthritic spine.

Commit to making 2019 your healthiest year ever. If you have been told that you have arthritis and would like to learn how you can become like the people mentioned in the study – asymptomatic, or pain-free – call us today to schedule a free injury screen. To start the year out right, we are holding another day of free screens at our six clinic locations on Thursday, January 24, 2019. Don’t wait too long to call and schedule your free screen though because we only have a limited number of slots available at each location.

Want to learn more about eliminating back pain? Check out the other articles from this series: