If you are like most Americans, you brush and floss your teeth daily, visit a dentist for checkups and tooth cleaning. The idea is to keep your teeth working properly and looking nice for as long as possible, how about your entire life! To many of us this makes complete sense. But what about our spines? According to many health authorities it is estimated that 80% of adults will experience back pain at one point in their lives. Back and neck pain affects nearly one in three, or 75.7 million adults in the US. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) arthritis and other musculoskeletal problems (neck pain, lower back pain, hip and shoulder pain etc.) are the most common disabilities in the world and the incidence is growing quickly, not surprisingly in the younger population. It was generally assumed that arthritis came with old age but newer research appears to point to the onset of arthritis in individuals at a much younger age. Arthritis is not just a disease for older Americans, with two-thirds of arthritis sufferers under age 65. As many as 37% of individuals below the age of 20 might present with signs of degenerative joint disease in the spine. Many factors are believed to be the cause of this epidemic: obesity, prolonged sitting, lack of exercising, sleeping face-down, prolonged poor postures to name a few. Unchecked injuries to the spine as in sports injuries, work injuries, car accidents and accidents with any other mode of transportation can set up an early path to spinal joint decay way before any pain is experienced. The average annual cost per person for treatment of a musculoskeletal condition is $7,800. The estimated annual cost for medical care to treat all forms of arthritis and joint pain was $580.9 billion, which represented a 131 percent increase (in 2011 dollars) over 2000. In 2012, 25.5 million people lost an average of 11.4 days of work due to back or neck pain, for a total of 290.8 million lost workdays in 2012 alone. Among children and adolescents, musculoskeletal conditions are surpassed only by respiratory infections as a cause of missed school days. Let’s face it, a healthy mouth is important but a healthy spine is that much more important and no, you can’t replace it, you have only one for your entire life! Chiropractic care is the only health discipline that can address any type of spinal dysfunction in a preventative way and that is where “spinal hygiene” starts. Chiropractors are trained to develop specific adjustment protocols tailored to your spine’s unique shape and corrective needs. The key is to stay ahead of spinal decay, pain and disability rather than to treat it. Too many patients start seeing a chiropractor when a lot of damage to their spine has already been done dramatically limiting treatment outcomes. Prevention is the key to a long lasting healthy spine. While many chiropractors encourage spinal maintenance care we are taking it a step farther focusing on “optimization” of spinal function. Achieving an optimally functioning spine takes a more comprehensive approach that goes beyond getting regular chiropractic adjustments. Join me in my next blog for more details.