Degenerative Disc Disease
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease is a name for the changes that can happen to the spine and discs where there is uncorrected damage. Uncorrected damage to the spine and discs can lead to a worsening of degenerative disc disease the longer the correction is put off.
Our discs are made of a tough, rubbery exterior and a soft interior. They sit between the vertebrae to act as shock absorbers. As we age, damaged and injured spinal discs can begin the degenerative process. This degeneration can accompany spinal misalignment, herniated discs, bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and osteoarthritis.
Degenerative Disc Symptoms
The process of degenerative disc disease may cause no symptoms at all, and symptoms depend on the patient and the severity of their case. Most patients usually have a combination of spinal issues that need to be addressed to stop or slow the degenerative process.
Pain may occur at the site of the affected disc in the back or neck. As the pain is often caused by compressed nerves, this pain can also travel to other areas of the body like the buttocks, arms, and legs. Numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, arms, and legs may also be experienced. Pain can range from mild to severe and debilitating.
Degenerative Disc Causes
As mentioned previously, our spines and discs can degenerate as we can incur injuries that are not properly cared for, and over time, the degeneration worsens. Tears in the tougher outer layer of the disc are common in the injured, damaged areas, and as we grow older, it just means that we've had more opportunities for multiple injuries. When the discs are damaged, they can begin to lose fluid, and if not corrected, they become smaller and less flexible.
In regards to aging, I see patients that are younger with terribly damaged discs that are degenerating, and older patients with a spine of a twenty or thirty year-old. We see in older patients that we find degenerative disc disease is in the area of the spine that the patient has had injuries, not in the whole spine. It has nothing to do with age--it has to do with damage. Causes included other factors that may come into play, including obesity, smoking, repeated physical work, and yes, a variety of injuries. If you've been told that it's just old age, you may want to get a second opinion.
Degenerative Disc Treatment
This often painful condition caused by degeneration is treated in our clinic with the famous and most excellent Cox Technique, along with spinal alignment accomplished with the gentle low-force Activator Method. Sometimes, we include specific soft tissue work that we do to balance out and calm the nerves that are flared up or injured. Hot or cold packs, anti inflammatory medication, and good nutrition is also advised. When disc degeneration is often associated with problems like herniated or bulging discs, spinal stenosis, or osteoarthritis, other forms of treatment that we perform including physical therapy, stretching, and in only very rare, severe cases which we cannot help, then a referral for surgery, may be beneficial. While degenerative disc disease is NOT a natural part of aging, there are things you can do to reduce pain and stay healthy. If you are experiencing frequent back or neck pain, or pain that radiates in any part of your body, we can help you create an advanced, customized, comprehensive treatment plan specific for you and your condition.