What is degenerative disc disease? We here at Chiropractic of Thriveology have put together some information to help you learn more about degenerative disc disease and potential pain solutions and therapies that can be used to help.
If you have chronic issues with your back, you may have heard about degenerative disc disease, but not know much about it. Let’s take a look at the basics.
The Short Description
Degenerative disc disease is often associated with older individuals, even though younger people can have it as well. The intervertebral discs are little cushions between the vertebrae in the spine. They both allow your back to perform complex motions and maintain stability, all while allowing your back to carry the weight of your body and more. As people age, the discs can lose elasticity and become thinner, even losing some of the gel-like fluid inside the discs.
When this occurs, you lose flexibility in motion and you can experience pain with increasing intensity and frequency. If you have chronic neck or back pain that seems to occur more often and be more painful and/or are experiencing a loss of back flexibility, it can be a sign that you have degenerative disc disease.
Where is the Pain?
The pain for degenerative disc disease most frequently occurs in the lower back area, known as the lumbar spine. It is also commonly seen in the neck area, known as the cervical spine.
Understanding Your Spine
In your backbone, also known as the vertebral column, there are 33 vertebrae. Between your vertebrae, there are intervertebral discs, as described above, that act like tiny pillows between your vertebral bones. Each disc consists of an outer band (annulus fibrosus) and an inner liquid substance (nucleus pulposus). The vertebrae combined with the discs, form a protective exterior for the spinal cord and nerves.
On the back side of your vertebrae are facet joints which also assist with movement and flexibility. All of the spinal joints are protected by cartilage, which can also wear away and will compound the pain experienced. Additionally, the back has muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Muscles power the movement that takes place. Ligaments link your bones together while tendons connect the bones to muscles.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease alters the discs, making them less capable of cushioning your back’s motions. Your discs may also bulge or even herniate. Degenerative disc disease is not really a disease as much as it is part of the normal wear and tear of aging. Gradually the outer part of the discs (the annulus fibrosus) weaken and the water content of the discs decrease, making your discs more stiff and rigid.
Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
Because degenerative disc disease is usually the result of aging, people over 50 are more likely to experience this issue. Injuries can begin the degenerative process in the discs in your back as well, so younger people can also, though rarely, experience degenerative disc disease as a result.
Does Degenerative Disc Disease Require Surgery?
Some patients may require surgery, but the large majority of patients can find relief without surgery. For those who need surgery, there are several common methods used to help patients with degenerative disc disease: Foraminotomy, Macrodiscectomy, Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF).
How Can Chiropractic Care Help?
After determining that you are suffering from degenerative disc disease, your chiropractic care professional, such as the ones we have at Chiropractic by Thriveology in Denver, will develop a treatment plan to reduce the symptoms that you are experiencing. For example, there are a few types of spinal manipulation therapies that your chiropractic specialist may want to try:
- Specific spinal manipulation involves identifying the joints that appear to have restricted or abnormal motility and then uses a gentle thrust technique to manipulate the affected areas.
- Flexion-distraction technique is often used for spinal stenosis or herniated discs, this treatment involves gentle, non-thrusting manipulation.
- Instrument-assisted manipulation is where your chiropractic professional uses a hand-held instrument to apply gentle force that does not involve any thrusting directly into the spine.
Degenerative disc disease can also improve with the use of some of the following manual therapies:
- Trigger point therapy where direct pressure is placed on tight and/or painful spots on the muscles to relieve tension.
- Manual joint stretching and resistance techniques which involve slowly loosening tight areas by slowly stretching and expanding the range of motion in small increments and slow intervals.
- Therapeutic massages that can slowly reduce muscle tension and pain.
- instrument-assisted soft tissue therapy with techniques, such as the Graston technique, in which various tools and instruments are used to help manipulate pain spots or release muscle tension.
Here are a few other types of therapies that your chiropractic specialist may also want to also incorporate:
- Interferential electrical stimulation of muscles using low-frequency currents to reduce inflammation
- Ultrasound sends sound waves into the muscles, creating a gentle heat, that enhances circulation and help reduce stiffness, pain, and muscle spasms.
In addition, your chiropractic professional may also encourage you to perform regular therapeutic exercises, which can help reduce your symptoms more quickly and it can also help prevent them from worsening. Prevention can be key to halting the progression of degenerative disc disease and such regular exercises are an excellent part of prevention.
Chiropractic specialists, such as the ones we have at Chiropractic by Thriveology in Denver, spend time treating more than your specific symptoms. Our focus is helping the whole person so your specialist may spend time with you on education in areas such as stress management, overall lifestyle goals, nutrition, and more in addition to treating your degenerative disc disease.
What is degenerative disc disease? Now that you know more about it, you know there are options for improving it. Degenerative disc disease does not have to mean years of pain and suffering. Though you may not be able to reverse aging, you can reverse the effects. Contact us here at Chiropractic by Thriveology for help and pain relief.