Years of stress and too much use and abuse can cause your spine to degenerate, or wear out. Joint inflammation (arthritis) may result. Joints may also lose alignment and discs can wear down. Any may start to feel pain and stiffness.
In the textbook normal spine, the disc spaces are equal and there are no visible signs of degenerative changes.
Three Phases of Degeneration
In Phase I of spinal degeneration, the alignment of the spine is altered however the disc spaces may remain normal. Symptoms and degenerative changes may be present. Nerve tissues become irritated.
In Phase II of the spinal degeneration, the alignment continues to deteriorate, and disc narrowing is present. Degenerative changes progress and bone spurs are present. Nerve tissues are irritated and begin to atrophy1.
In Phase III of spinal degeneration, the joint space is no longer visualized. Bone spurs progress to fuse the involved joint. Nerve tissue atrophy occurs.
1 (of body tissue or an organ) waste away, typically due to the degeneration of cells, or become vestigial during evolution.