Glad you asked! Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is fundamentally a very natural part of the aging process, and one way or another all people experience a degree of the condition. Whether through age or injury, the condition means an intervertebral disc is degenerating – typically in the lumbar and cervical regions. Then, this degenerated disc can start trouble leading to the breakdown of other tissue (osteoporosis), herniations, bulging discs, or spinal stenosis.
Firstly, pain/tingling/numbness that may or may not get worse over time. For some it comes and goes (perhaps during work) and isn’t much of a bother. For others, the condition can lead to debilitating episodes of pain – in the morning, when bending over, at the gym, after prolonged sitting, etc. During these episodes, folks often feel like their back has “gone out” due to reactive muscle spasms. Symptoms can vary depending on the person, and location of the degenerated disc.
Aging for most, or in other words the slow degeneration of discs through the loss of disc fluid and tiny tears or cracks in the outer annulus layer. This translates into less flexibility/stability and eventually bulges and herniations. Bone spurs are also common as a result of the vertebrae being too close to one another, inflammation, pain, and impacted nerve function. Sudden injuries and trauma can kickstart degeneration as well. Some common risk factors include:
While spinal disc degeneration can happen to any disc, below are the two most common types we see in our Better Health Alaska clinics in Anchorage, Wasilla, and Juneau. Also, consider that once one disc is damaged, it can lead to issues elsewhere on the spine.
You have a large array of options for treating and managing back pain, from the noninvasive which we practice at Better Health Alaska chiropractic, to the surgical. Our treatment programs contain elements of chiropractic care – including adjustments – physical/occupational therapy or rehabilitation, and chiropractic massage therapy. Treatment should be holistic, taking lifestyle, exercise regimens, and nutrition into account as well.
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While the wording indicates it’s a degenerative disease, it’s misleading. For most, the symptoms of disc degeneration don’t steadily get worse like cancer, but slowly over time. If you’re wondering what that looks like, imagine a spinal column where multiple vertebra have very little to no disc between them in a 70, 80, 90+ year old person hunched over as they walk – limited mobility, flexibility, and function. You can address a bulging or herniated disc. You can realign your spinal column through chiropractic adjustments. But, no one can stop the aging process (yet…).
In the two previous sections we spoke about exercises and stretches for herniated discs, and bulging discs. They’re not just great for treatment once symptoms like back pain appear, but preventative in nature as well. Whether you’re currently experiencing back pain or not, getting into the habit of empowering your spine is a great idea.
There are definitely associations that can be drawn between family history, or your genes, and disc issues like chronic lower back pain. Some new studies have “indicated” this or that, but honestly we still don’t have enough conclusive evidence to make universal statements on the matter. If your parent(s) had spinal problems, will you? Maybe. Your genes, lifestyle choices including nutrition, and environment all play a role over time.