Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial if you have disc degeneration, or think you might. Call Pure Chiropractic today on 250-585-8866 for a checkup.
What are discs, in terms of your back?
Intervertebral discs are the shock absorbers of the spine. In the human body there are 23 discs. You find a disc between the vertebrae, with the exception of C1 and C2 bones, which has none. The discs make up a quarter of the total height of the spine. They also act as a flexible hinge, allowing motion between the vertebrae.
The discs are made mostly of water. In childhood they are 80% water. As we age, the amount of water slowly decreases. The next-biggest component of the intervertebral disc is cartilage. Cartilage is soft and bendable. (Your nose and ears are also made of cartilage.)
The centre of the disc is a fluid-filled ball, called the nucleus pulposus. It is like a water balloon, and is what gives each disc its shock-absorbing quality. Surrounding the nucleus are tough concentric rings known as the annulus fibrosus. Those rings were so named because of their resemblance to the yearly rings of a tree. The job of the annulus fibrosus is to contain the nucleus from outward expansion during compression.
What is degenerative disc disease?
Degenerative disc disease (“DDD”) is a wearing-down of the disc. It starts with a loss of water content in the discs. Because of that dehydration, the disc height is reduced. Next, tears will occur in the rings of the annulus fibrosus. The tears can be between the ring-like layers, or more seriously, through the rings. If enough of these tears through rings exist, it will give the nucleus pulposus a pathway to escape. That is what a disc herniation – AKA a slipped disc – is. If the nerve pressure is significant enough you may see a decrease in or loss of muscle control. As the degeneration progresses, the vertebrae will form bone spurs, known as osteophytes. Those spurs can cause a narrowing of the bony pathways for the nerves, called stenosis.
Although some amount of degeneration often occurs with age, it is very common to see early onset of degenerative disc disease at one or two discs, and not throughout the spine. That type of wear is usually due to trauma. MRI studies have shown that to happen in children as young as eight years old. The trauma may come from a single big injury, like a major fall or car accident, or from cumulative smaller trauma, like poor posture. It is important to see a chiropractor following a trauma to ensure good spinal biomechanics and health.
Does degenerative disc disease hurt?
Degenerative disc disease does not always hurt, especially in the earlier stages. Pain is more likely as the condition progresses. Typically the pain is worse after periods of inactivity, such as sitting or after lying in bed for some time. For some people the pain can be very intense. If enough wear happens to allow disc herniation to occur, the pain is significant. In those situations the herniation will compress the spinal nerve roots as they leave the spine. The pain can travel the entire length of the nerve. Disc herniations in the neck create pain going into the arms. Disc herniations in the low back cause pain going into the legs, a condition known as sciatica.
Can disc degeneration be reversed?
Degenerative disc disease is a one-way process, sad to say. Once the disc thins or tears, those changes are permanent. Still, with proper care, you may see a reduction in or complete absence of pain. Prevention and early treatment is key. Remember, degenerative disc disease can be completely painless. Your chiropractor is trained to find possible degeneratoin before it even starts to give you symptoms.
Can chiropractic help degenerative disc disease?
When you first meet your chiropractor, he or she will conduct a thorough consultation and examination. The consultation is an opportunity to find out everything you can report about your condition. The exam will include chiropractic, orthopaedic, and neurological testing. In doing so, your chiropractor can identify areas of joint fixation, indicating possible degeneration. He or she also will look into possible nerve compression. At our office we have an on-site digital x-ray machine that allows us, if necessary, to determine the extent of the problem.
After that, your chiropractor will discuss possible treatment techniques. Again, degenerative disc disease is not reversible, but by improving your spinal biomechanics your chiropractor may be able to help you with your pain. That may also reduce inflammation around the joint, which is another source of pain. You may be given stretches or strengthening exercises to help reduce the disease’s progression.
Get help today
Call Pure Chiropractic today (250-585-8866) to discuss your disc degeneration and possible therapies.