Everything You Need To Know About Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) results when the nucleus of the disc loses water, causing small tears to develop. The body responds by forming bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, along the edges of the vertebrae, which then causes the disc space to narrow. People with family members who have degenerative disc disease are more likely to develop it, but the condition my also be caused by injury or trauma.
Also known as annuli fibrosis, spinal discs are similar to ligaments with thick outer rings that attach to the top and bottom part of each vertebra. These discs are responsible for shock absorption, which protects the spinal cord and maintains the spine's flexibility.
Spinal discs contain nucleus pulposis, a jelly-like substance which consists of water, primarily. The nucleus pulposis works as shock absorption, acting as the primary agent to direct vertebrae movement.
Other Common Disc Problems
So-called bulges of the disc are caused by small tears in the outermost fibers of an annulus fibrosis. These tears may result in pain, although they don't usually last for prolonged periods.
Herniation, or disc protrusion, results in more serious injury. In this case, the fibers of the annulus are significantly torn, with nucleus leaks. A herniation is not only painful, but it can also cause compression of the nerves. The spinal cord itself may become compressed in the most acute cases.
Signs and Symptoms of Disc Complications
The following signs of disc problems are common: pain in the neck or back, pain in the leg or arm, general stiffness, and tenderness in the spine/spinal muscles.
However, if you experience pronounced bladder or bowel difficulties, loss of sensation in the buttocks and/or arms, fever with your back pain, or severe weakness and inability to walk or move your arms, seek immediate care.
The Diagnosis of Disc Problems
Typically, disc problems are diagnosed by assessing the patient's thorough history and through a physical examination, which evaluates the nervous as well as the musculoskeletal systems. In the evaluation, your chiropractic doctor might place your back, arms, and legs in various positions and apply pressure to the joints.
A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used, as it is deemed very helpful in the diagnosis of disc problems. Alternatively, an X-ray might be taken, depending on your symptoms.
Treatment of Degenerative Disc Disease
The majority of cases are easily, and effectively, treated with conservative care. Your doctor of chiropractic will most likely employ several different approaches to help control the pain. They may include:
- Ice and heat therapy. Both ice and heat are helpful in managing acute low-back pain.
- An appropriate plan for physical movement. Movement is critical to your recovery. Studies show that patients who are inactive for prolonged periods take longer to recover and the long-term results are worse.
- Spinal manipulation as employed by doctors of chiropractic. Spinal manipulation is a safe and effective tool in the management of disc problems.
Spine surgery and injections should be seen as the last resort, and only for the most acute cases. Likely, however, these intrusive measures are not necessary in the management of disc problems, and their collateral effects can present another set of problems to the degenerative disc disorder patient.
Prevention of Disc Disorders
- Aim to be physically active by exercising regularly. Walking, swimming, or tai chi, are just some of the exercise options that will help you in staying physically fit. Your doctor of chiropractic can assist you in designing a specific exercise regimen for your individual needs.
- Strive to maintain correct posture at all times. When you sit down, stand up, work, exercise, and lie down, make sure you're aware of your posture.
- When lifting objects, bend your knees, keeping objects close to your body. Make sure to also keep your back straight and lift with your legs, so not to put strain on your body. Do not lift objects by twisting or leaning. This is a sure-fire way to provoke back injury.
Chiropractic Can Help
Your chiropractic doctor has many tools to help address and treat your spinal disc problems. Rehabilitative exercises, heat/ice therapy, spinal manipulation, and dietary recommendations are effective methods for the treatment of degenerative disc disease.
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