Have you ever heard the legend of people shrinking when they get older? Guess what? It’s not a legend. This does actually happen to some people depending on how they treated their body over a lifetime. Similar to arthritis, Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is another spinal condition that can cause debilitating pain that leaves patients in a huge predicament. In this week’s blog, we will discuss what DDD is and how we can treat it.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
The term Degenerative Disc Disease completely describes the condition. The disc between each vertebra begin to degenerate, weaken, and creates havoc on individuals. Vertebra will lose their natural square shape and begin to flatten along with the disc and spurring, long sharp pieces of calcification will infiltrate the bone(s). Bones will look grayer and paler on an x-ray as typically someone with DDD has less bone density due to Vitamin D and calcium depletion. Symptoms can vary from mild pain to more severe complications such as severe pain, radicular pain down leg/arm, numbness/tingling and muscle weakness. Sounds a lot like a disc bulge/herniation, right?
The question is, “How do we prevent DDD?” Believe it or not, we don’t need to be elderly to get DDD and not everybody gets it. Just like arthritis, DDD happens because of wear and tear, repetitive motions, or severe trauma(s) that one experienced over a lifetime. For example: A 30-year-old UFC fighter with dozens of injuries may have a more severe case of DDD than an 80-year-old individual who treated his body well during his lifetime. You wouldn’t believe the number of patients we see who say they have DDD because of their age, but age is nothing more than a number. Age has very little to do with developing DDD. We see patients in their 30s who have destroyed their spine and we see patients well into their 80s who are completely normal and healthy. How one chooses to treat the body will determine the outcome of the spine and the nervous system as they age.
How Do We Treat Degenerative Disc Disease?
Let’s go back to the very last question of the first paragraph. The symptoms in a severe case of DDD are similar to a disc bulge/herniation. Think about it. What happens to a jelly-filled donut as you continuously apply downward pressure? The jelly content inside begins to leak out, right? The same thing happens with DDD. When the disc thins, bones will become closer to each other creating too much pressure. This pressure allows the disc nucleus contents to leak out, putting pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves. As this happens, symptoms kick in and as DDD progresses, symptoms can worsen.
DDD is perhaps one of the most common conditions we manage. Notice that we said manage and not treat. Like arthritis, once you have DDD, it’s there to stay. The damage shown on x-rays is permanent. Our goal is to prevent the disease progression and treat the symptoms. How do we do that? We need to determine whether you’re a chiropractic patient or decompression patient by performing a thorough examination. Patients with a mild to moderate case typically respond well to chiropractic manipulation where more severe cases that experience neurological symptoms need decompression. Decompression will help rehydrate the disc and increase spacing between two vertebrae. To learn more about the specific science behind decompression, refer back to the decompression blog we created several weeks ago. Again, we will be able to determine a course of treatment after the completion of the first visit. If you or someone you know has DDD or, please call us at (724) 547-3377 and checkout our website at www.drlarrywilkinsspinalcare.com for more content on similar conditions and treatment options.
Yours In Health,
Larry E. Wilkins, DC
Brian M. Steinert, DC