By Dr. Ben Lerner and Dr. Fred Dideminico
Everything from standing upright, to sleeping, to going to the bathroom is under direct control of the spinal column and the nervous system it encases. Yet, not very much medical or media attention is focused on sustaining this all-important area of the human body. As a result of the neglect, abuse and poor focus both the spine and nervous system receive, most people suffer greatly with the results of deterioration in this area at some point in their lives.
Patients and doctors alike are under the misconception that once a spinal condition exists -- including disc and nerve damage -- you need surgery or are forced to live with pain, weakness and organ malfunction for the rest of your life.
However, the truth behind today’s spinal treatments bears that while the spine can easily degenerate, it can also regenerate. Therefore, conditions once believed to be permanent can actually be not only healed, but reversed.
To receive spinal regeneration, you must go to a chiropractor trained in this area of spinal care. Similar to the medical field, chiropractic has also become highly specialized. While the mass majority of chiropractors today are essentially “general practitioners,” certain doctors of chiropractic have higher levels of training in neurology and spinal correction as well as pediatrics, pregnancy and over all health and wellness.
A View From the Inside
A review of published literature indicates that the upright adult spine loses up to 20 mm (slightly more than 3/4 inch) of vertical height each day due to loss of fluid from the disc. The sleep cycle allows the unloaded discs to regain most, but not all, of their fluid and height by the reabsorption of fluid surrounding the discs (Kapandji, 1974).
Since all the fluid and disc height is not regained, the spine becomes shorter starting around age 30. It is common to lose up to 2 inches of stature by age 60 due to the loss of disc fluid. In addition, loss of disc fluid and height compromise spinal form and function with lateral and rotatory postural deviations of the hips and shoulders (Kapandji, 1974).
The discs are comprised of 88 percent water. Proper hydration is essential for nourishment, lubrication and function of all joint cartilages, tendons, ligaments and spinal discs’ nutrition delivery and waste elimination. When the body dehydrates, it pulls water out of the “white tissues” first, meaning the ligaments and tendons of the body (i.e. vertebral discs). If the body continues to dehydrate, the body will pull water next out of the organs, eventually the brain and then you will die.
A loss of only 12 percent of the water out of the disc will reduce the disc height by 50 percent.
Surprisingly, the loss of 1 mm of height in a cervical disc and 1.4 mm loss of height in the lumbar disc will cause the same amount of neurological compression and IVF encroachment equal to an 8-degree rotation. (It takes a 3-degree rotation to cause IVF encroachment and neurological compromise). So you can see that it doesn’t take much water loss in the body to start affecting your discs and the function of your nervous system.
How does the water get lost? Between ages 12-14, the spinal discs’ blood nutrition supply and waste elimination system atrophies. That means the discs will have to receive their necessary water, nutrients and waste elimination from osmosis and imbibation (intersegmental motion of the spinal vertebrae that pump fluids, nutrients and waste in and out of the discs).
This becomes a challenge because, as people get older, they may become more sedentary, develop advancing spinal and postural degenerative conditions and ultimately lose the intersegmental motion of their spine. Once they lose this motion, the discs quickly dehydrate and lose height. This leads to IVF encroachment and chronic pain syndromes that soon advance to visceral and organic conditions leading to disease.
Chiropractors involved with spinal correction and rehabilitation can detect levels of disc degeneration and correct spinal displacements that are causing IVF encroachment, thus allowing the nervous system to function optimally and keep the body healthy. Until recently, it had been thought, once a disc was degenerated and lost height it could not be restored. It had also been thought that loss of disc height could not be prevented. These assumptions are no longer true.
Can the intervertebral discs rehydrate and regenerate? The discs need three things to regenerate:
Let’s look at the first two for now.
Research has shown, if we can create loading and unloading cycles in the spine, we can literally “suck” water back into the disc and rehydrate it predictably. So what are loading and unloading cycles? Loading and unloading cycles are consecutive alternating compression and traction movements. Repetitive traction (elongation) followed by compression of the discs produce “imbibation and osmosis” of water into the disc rehydrating or regenerating the disc height.
In addition to disc rehydration, the loading and unloading cycles reduce up to 95 percent of the elastic energy in the spine. The soft tissues have an inherent elastic, rebound energy and reflexes that return the body to its original position after a trauma. This elastic energy must be reduced if we are to achieve spinal correction. The loading and unloading cycles that reduce the elastic energy of the body is called hysteresis.
Hysteresis is essential for spinal correction because the structure of the spine is controlled by the soft tissues, the shape of the discs. The discs are like a hard Jell-O. They have a lot of tensile strength and a lot of rebound, elastic energy.
When a force is applied to the spine to change the structure, the elastic properties will rebound against that force and the hard Jell-O consistency of the disc will continue to maintain the current spinal structure. Hysteresis, repetitive traction and compression cycles liquefy the Jell-O like consistency, reduce the rebound energy by up to 95 percent and decrease muscle spasms to help the doctor achieve an easier adjustment as well as rehydrating the disc.
When the spine is soft, it is easier to mold the spine into a new structure. The newly liquefied disc will require 16-20 minutes to harden like Jell-O again. Once the spine is adjusted and the structure is corrected, the spine can be molded and hardened into its new structure.
The Pettibon System
For this reason, pre-adjustment warm-ups become essential for spinal correction and regeneration. The Pettibon System is a chiropractic system that can do this predictably. Here are some of the benefits of loading and unloading cycles.
The avascular discs ligaments and tendons are nourished and metabolic wastes are eliminated.
The visco-elastic properties of the discs, ligaments and tendons that hold the vertebral units out of their normal position are progressively less resistant to spinal corrective adjusting.
Up to 95 percent of the force needed to adjust or manipulate is reduced by these repetitive cycles.
Rehydrate the disc and increase disc height.
Increase disc and tendon strength.
Decrease the potential for injury or severity of injury from sudden applied forces.
Lubrication for spinal joints and nourishment for their cartilage.
Prevention of adhesions during healing and improved joint integrity of healed joints.
Development for “core” basis for further strength, endurance and agility training.
Rehabilitative exercise is an extremely valuable tool to aid the doctor in the management of both acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions.
The Pettibon Chiropractic program is a program that offers a cervical decompressive type of tractioning along with a lumbar motion device designed to restore spinal curvatures and bring motion and fluid back to the cervical and lumbar discs. The safety and effectiveness of this type of program are far superior to any type of surgery. Any time you can avoid surgical intervention or drugs, you are far better off.
When accompanied with the right nutrients and additional exercises shown to you by your corrective care chiropractor, all of the elements necessary for spinal regeneration are there. At any age, with any level of degeneration, the potential for some degree of correction and healing is possible.
Dr. Ben Lerner, along with Dr. Greg Loman, owns Teach The World About Chiropractic, a Chiropractic training company. They have helped build the largest spinal correction clinics in the history of Chiropractic.
I met Dr. Lerner in 2004 and am convinced he is an authentic leader in the health field. He is incredibly fit and nearly made it into the Olympics as a wrestler. His passion is to improve other people's health. Through his work with thousands of patients he discovered a proven pathway to build health instead of merely treating disease, which is a major part of my Web site.
His book, Body By God: The Owner's Manual for Maximized Living, is an excellent resource for anyone looking to improve his or her health through the following principles:
- Maximizing Your Life
- Stress Management
- Time Management