What You Should Know About Degenerative Disc Disease and Chiropractic Care
Degenerative disc disease is part of the aging process; it is a condition that many patients will be afflicted with as they get older, and it refers to the breakdown of the tissue that acts as a cushion as it separates the vertebrae. When discs deteriorate to the point of breaking down, they result in pain, numbness, weakness, and an overall reduction in quality of life. Age-related back pain that cannot be traced to trauma or adverse physical activity is usually caused by this condition.
Even though degenerative disc disease, also referred to by the DDD initialism, can be described as a natural process, it should not be left untreated to the point of debilitation. There are various treatment options for DDD, and chiropractic care is often one of the most effective.
DDD and Back Pain
Slight weakness and the occasional feeling of numbness are symptoms that many elderly patients can tolerate; many of them will just chalk it up to old age, and they will find a combination of relaxation and physical activity to make it manageable. When DDD causes excruciating back pain, chiropractors will consider the following:
- A severe case of osteoarthritis could be pinching the nerves connected to the spinal cord.
- Long periods of inactivity or prolonged poor posture may have resulted in a condition known as spinal stenosis, which is aggravated by DDD.
- When discs begin to deteriorate, they may be affected by an initial period of edema, which will make them bulge. This will, in turn, exert pressure on spinal nerves.
- DDD may be developing in a way that interferes with the healthy functionality of the spine.
It should be noted that DDD can impact the lower back, the middle region, or even the anatomical area around the neck. Similar to sciatica, the pain may radiate down to the lower extremities, thus making it difficult to walk around in some cases.
Patient Evaluation and Diagnosis
As previously mentioned, patients of a certain age are more prone to DDD, especially those who are sedentary or whose work obligations kept them tied to chairs for many years. Chiropractors will keep this in mind, but they will not assume that all patients over the age of 50 will suffer DDD. When you go to the chiropractic clinic for a lower back pain evaluation, the doctor will consider the following:
- Subjective Observations: This is your time to explain how you feel and when you started to experience back pain. Try to be as descriptive as possible.
- Objective Observations: The chiropractor will review your medical history if records are available. You will be asked questions about your lifestyle and level of physical activity as well as other conditions you may suffer from. The next step is to evaluate body mechanics; this is done through walking around and assuming certain poses, and the goal is to determine how your spine functions during certain activities.
- Assessment: Prior to making a diagnosis, the chiropractor may order tests such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging.
- Treatment Plan: This will be formulated once an accurate assessment can be made. Some patients will not have a DDD condition at all; it could be sciatica or spinal subluxation.
Chiropractic Care Treatments for DDD
DDD is a bit of a misnomer because this is not the kind of disease that can be cured; instead, it can be treated and managed to improve the quality of life. If you choose chiropractic treatment to alleviate DDD, you are choosing a holistic solution. The immediate goal is not so much to provide relief as is to prevent the formation of hernias and spinal arthritis situations.
Spinal adjustment or manipulation is highly recommended for DDD patients. If there is a determination of spinal stenosis, the chiropractor will likely choose the flexion and distraction technique, which involves gently manipulating the spine with mechanical assistance from the chiropractic table.
When chiropractors identify the specific joints affected by DDD, they will be targeted and manipulated by means of thrusting. The key to detecting these joints is by observing their range of motion. If the joints are restricted, particular manipulation techniques will help them regain their normal range of motion.
In some cases, the chiropractor may determine that the best course of action would be to apply pressure with a handheld device that emits magnetic pulses. The force obtained from these devices is mild and therapeutic. For the most part, chiropractic treatments for degenerative disc disease are comfortable; you may feel a bit awkward during your first session, but many patients start feeling relief in subsequent visits to the clinic.
General Advice for DDD Patients
Spinal manipulation will not make DDD go away; nothing will really “get rid of” this condition. Medical treatment may involve prescribing painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications. There are surgical procedures to remove discs that have completely stopped serving their purpose, and they are replaced with plastic pieces. None of these treatments will terminate this condition.
Chiropractic treatment for DDD seeks to do more than just reduce inflammation, which is often an exacerbating factor producing most of the pain. Proper alignment of the spine aims to improve mobility and strengthen muscle tissue around the affected area. When the small and lean muscles surrounding the spine are flexible and strong, DDD will be almost an afterthought because it will not cause pain.
When undergoing chiropractic treatment for DDD, you may feel as if you are receiving physical therapy sessions; in fact, you may be prescribed certain stretching exercises that you will be highly encouraged to practice at home. A significant aspect of chiropractic care revolves around physical therapy. If your back and stomach muscles, which are collectively known as your core, are in good shape, DDD will not bother you. For this reason, you should pay special attention to the physical activity recommendations made by your chiropractor.
You will rarely hear about an avid yoga practitioner or a lifelong swimmer being afflicted with DDD, and this is because their spines have been properly aligned for several years. Once your spine is manipulated back into proper position by your chiropractor after a few sessions, you will want to keep it that way with the right exercises