Degenerative disc disease is a fairly common condition associated with our natural aging process. In many cases, degenerative disc disease can cause pain and discomfort in the lower back. Thankfully there are a few treatment options available for those who are suffering from painful cases of this condition.
A Family Chiropractic clinic treats patients that suffer from back and neck pain. Our goal is to help patients reduce pain while restoring function. While people suffering from degenerative disc disease may never experience the function that they had in their youth, we can still help increase function and comfort.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
As our bodies naturally age changes occur in our spines. Degenerative disc disease refers to the loss of function and structure in the spinal discs. These discs serve as cushions that break down over time. They provide protection to our vertebrae from the shock of strenuous activity. These discs also prevent our vertebrae from grinding against each other.
When we get older, the collagen in the discs weakens. The discs also start to dry out. This leads to an inability to handle stress well. As a result, the discs in the neck and lumbar regions of our spine become especially vulnerable to damage. This can result in pain in the neck and lower back. An astonishing 80% of adults experience back pain as they get older. Most of these cases can be treated with non-invasive treatment plans. A vast majority of these people seek out chiropractic care to help reduce and eliminate the pain associated with degenerative disc disease.
Chiropractic Care and Degenerative Disc Disease
If you find yourself experiencing ongoing back pain then it’s wise to set up an appointment with your chiropractor. They will examine your spine and discuss your symptoms to determine if you may be suffering from degenerative disc disease.
Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease
Along with back pain, many people suffering from degenerative disc disease also exhibit other symptoms. Your chiropractor will ask about restricted joint motion as well as muscle spasms. They’ll check your spine for disc injuries and ligament injuries. They’ll also evaluate your overall posture. In addition to the physical exam they may order a series of additional tests. The use of an x-ray and MRI can help give your chiropractor a look at your spine and the soft tissue surrounding it.
After evaluating the information from the exam and your imaging results, your chiropractor will reach a diagnosis. They will also advise if it appears that the spinal joints are causing pain or if degenerative discs are bulging and putting pressure on your nerves. Your chiropractor will work with you to develop a treatment plan for your back pain once you are diagnosed.
Treating Degenerative Disc Disease
While it isn’t possible to restore your spinal discs, your chiropractor may be able to improve spinal motion, reduce inflammations, and improve joint mechanics. The sooner you start treatment, the better. If your condition is untreated and it progresses too far then you may require surgery. However, seeing your doctor at the first sign of symptoms can greatly increase the chance of successful treatments.
To treat degenerative disc disease, your chiropractor will primarily use spinal adjustments. There are a number of spinal adjustment techniques that can benefit your condition. Your chiropractor may focus on specific joints that are showing abnormal motion or are restricted. They will then work to restore movement to these joints using specific spinal manipulation. Another option is to use the flexion-distraction technique. This is commonly used in patients who suffer from herniated discs or spinal stenosis. The third option uses a hand-held adjustment instrument called an activator. This is perhaps the gentlest technique.
Your chiropractor may also use manual therapy in addition to spinal adjustments. These additional therapies help relieve associated muscle pain and help speed up the healing process. They include trigger point therapy, manual joint stretching and resistance, therapeutic massage, and instrument-assisted soft tissue therapy.
Other types of therapy such as interferential electrical stimulation and ultrasound therapy can help reduce inflammation. They can also reduce muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain using gentle heat and electrical current.
Physical Therapy for Degenerative Disc Disease
Physical therapy may be recommended in conjunction with your chiropractic care. While you may want to rest in bed when your back is hurting, this can actually be counterproductive. It’s okay to rest for a few days but then you’ll need to use those muscles to prevent further weakness. A physical therapist will help you by working with you to learn and practice specific stretches and exercises.
These stretches and exercises will help strengthen the key muscles in your abdomen and your back. This benefits your spine by helping build a more stable environment in your body. Being stronger will limit the amount of stress placed on your spine and help reduce injury. This will also help increase your flexibility. Being stronger and more flexible will allow you to perform more activities with better posture and less pain.
Seeing a chiropractor for degenerative disc disease goes beyond spinal adjustments and other treatments. Chiropractor’s treat you as a person, rather than just one illness. It’s normal for them to educate you on other factors that are affecting your spine. These include nutrition and weight, stress management, and lifestyle goals. By maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle you will experience reduced pain and better function.
In addition to the physical benefits, chiropractic care and physical therapy are a great alternative for other treatments. Rather than just prescribing medications and rest, these treatments aim at getting you up and moving, pain free and without the side effects of medications. Many people also choose to pursue chiropractic care and physical therapy in lieu of risky surgical procedures.
Speak openly with your health care provider about your treatment goals and questions. Having clear expectations of living with degenerative disc disease is an important part of your recovery. Your chiropractor and physical therapist will help you learn about what you can and shouldn’t do to maintain a healthy spine. You don’t have to live with the pain caused by degenerative disc disease. Speak with your chiropractor and get started on the path to reduced pain.