Question: My parents have spinal osteoarthritis. Does that mean that I'll definitely get it? Are there any preventive measures I can take now to help avoid developing osteoarthritis?
—San Antonio, TX
Answer: The quick answers to your questions: No—it's not definite that you will develop spinal osteoarthritis. It can be hereditary, but just because both of your parents have it doesn't guarantee you'll get it, too. But yes, there are some preventive measures you can take now to avoid developing this condition.
Now, a bit of explanation about spinal osteoarthritis: It is more commonly known as spondylosis, a type of arthritis that affects your spine. You can have spondylosis in any area of your spine—your cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), or lumbar (low back) regions. It frequently occurs in more than one of these areas at the same time.
Spondylosis is a degenerative spinal disorder, which means that it develops over time. In fact, the strains of our everyday lives contribute to the normal wear and tear process in our spines—that's why it's more common in people older than 40. But anyone can get it, even younger people.
Many people who have spondylosis have no family history of the disease or any other spine conditions. However, as I said above, spondylosis can be hereditary.
Of course, you're at a higher risk of developing it because your parents have it, but by incorporating some important preventive measures into your life, you may be able to delay—or perhaps avoid—spondylosis.
- Develop a regular fitness routine: Work with your doctor to develop a safe workout plan for you. Try to incorporate resistance training and aerobic and flexibility exercises into your routine.
- Lose weight if necessary: Being overweight or obese puts added stress and pressure on the joints in your spine (called facet joints). This can cause the normal wear and tear process to speed up.
- Eat healthy, nutritious foods: Base your diet on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Take breaks throughout the day: This is especially important if you work at a desk all day. Getting up to stretch every 30 minutes gives your back a chance to recover from the strain of sitting for hours.
- Develop good posture: Sitting or standing correctly promotes good back health.
- Learn how to lift properly: Lifting correctly can help you avoid excessive strain on your back.
- Get plenty of sleep: Aim for 8 hours a night.
- Stop smoking: Smoking can accelerate the aging process, which is bad news for your spine.
- Avoid heavy use of alcohol: Too much alcohol can lead to dehydration.
There's no sure way to tell if you will completely avoid developing spondylosis, but leading a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent spondylosis.