Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
Intervertebral, or spinal, discs are the padding between each vertebra of the spine. These discs consist of a tough, fibrous outer layer, and a soft, gel-like inner core. The function of the disc is to cushion the stress when the spine moves or bears weight. A healthy disc is made up of roughly 90% water. Over time, due to physical stress and aging, the water content goes down, and the disc becomes thinner and provides less cushioning to the spine.
Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease:
As the body ages, the spinal discs will slowly degenerate (break down). However, there are factors that can cause degeneration to occur more rapidly. Acute injury or trauma to the spine (car accident, slip and fall, sports injury) may accelerate the process of degeneration. Repetitive strain and postural issues can also lead to increased pressure on the discs over time, which speeds up degeneration. Being overweight causes more pressure on the discs as well.
A thorough consultation will help to identify risk factors and possible causes of degenerative disc disease. A physical examination by one of our professionals will assess for tenderness, postural issues, muscle spasm, or nerve irritation that may be contributing to the condition. Often times, diagnostic x-rays or MRI evaluation of the affected areas will be performed to further evaluate the health of the spine and discs.
Signs and Symptoms:
Many people may have degeneration of the discs and have no symptoms. Others may experience intense pain that makes it difficult to move or carry out their daily functions. Pain typically starts in the neck or lower back, usually accompanied by stiffness and loss of range of motion. As the condition worsens, nerves can become irritated, causing pain, weakness, and numbness into the arms or legs.
Patients with DDD typically respond well to physical therapy modalities, chiropractic manipulation, decompression therapy, and flexibility exercises. Long term health of the discs can be maintained through a strength training regimen, postural awareness, and maintenance chiropractic treatments.
If you know someone who is experiencing problems associated with degenerative disc disease, please contact our office to arrange for a free consultation.