Common Degenerative Spinal Conditions in Aging Adults

As the population ages, degenerative spinal conditions become increasingly prevalent, affecting millions worldwide. These conditions, which include osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease, can significantly impact the quality of life of older adults. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatments of these conditions is crucial for managing their effects and improving patient outcomes.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis affecting the spine. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the tops of bones degenerates, or wears down, causing pain and stiffness in the spine. In the spine, this tends to occur in the facet joints, which are small stabilizing joints located between and behind adjacent vertebrae.

Symptoms: Common symptoms include persistent pain and stiffness in the back or neck, along with limited range of motion. Activities that have been routine can become challenging as the condition progresses.

Causes: Age is the primary risk factor, with symptoms appearing typically after the age of 50. Other factors include obesity, previous injuries to the spine, and genetics.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis involves the narrowing of spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. This condition is most commonly caused by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis.

Symptoms: Spinal stenosis can lead to symptoms such as numbness, weakness, and tingling in the arms or legs. Severe cases can affect bowel or bladder function, a condition known as cauda equina syndrome, which is a medical emergency.

Causes: Spinal stenosis is primarily caused by the gradual degradation of the discs between the vertebrae and the thickening of the ligaments around the spinal canal.

Degenerative Disc Disease

This condition occurs when one or more of the discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column deteriorates or breaks down, leading to pain.

Symptoms: The main symptom is pain that can range from nagging to severe and disabling. The pain might worsen with activities such as bending over, reaching up, or twisting.

Causes: Degenerative disc disease is often part of the natural aging process, but it can also result from trauma or repetitive strain on the spine.

Impact on Daily Life

These conditions can severely impact an individual's daily life, limiting their mobility, and making everyday activities painful and difficult. Chronic pain can also lead to other health issues, such as sleep disturbances, depression, and reduced physical activity, which in turn can affect overall health and well-being.

Integrating Devices Like ComforTrac in Treatment Plans

Innovations in medical devices have made significant strides in managing the discomfort associated with degenerative spinal conditions. Devices like ComforTrac, which offer cervical and lumbar traction, can be integrated into treatment plans to help alleviate pain and improve the quality of life. Traction therapy involves stretching the spine to improve alignment and relieve pressure on the compressed nerves.

How ComforTrac Works: ComforTrac devices are designed to provide safe and effective traction (stretching) that can be administered at home. The device gently pulls on the head or torso to create space between the vertebrae, which can help to alleviate pain caused by pinched nerves or compressed discs.

Benefits: Regular use of traction devices like ComforTrac can lead to significant improvements in spinal alignment, reduction in pain, and increased mobility. For many patients, this means a return to normal daily activities with less discomfort and a reduced need for pain medications.

Managing degenerative spinal conditions effectively requires a comprehensive approach that includes medical treatment, physical therapy, and potentially the use of assistive devices like ComforTrac. By understanding the symptoms and causes of these conditions, individuals can take proactive steps to manage their health and maintain their quality of life as they age.