Part 1: Causes and Symptoms
Degenerative disc disease or disc degeneration may be the diagnosis your chiropractor will give you if you are having low back pain. Because back pain has numerous possible causes, chiropractors are not always sure why the symptoms occur; however, the pain usually originates from the intervertebral discs in the lower spine.
The process of how degenerative disc disease (DDD) develops and how chiropractors diagnose this condition will be explored in this article. Treatment options will also be discussed.
How Degenerative Disc Disease Happens
In order to understand how degeneration happens, one needs to learn the anatomy of the human spine.
The spine consists of twenty-four spinal bones called the vertebrae. In between each pair of the vertebrae, there is an intervertebral disc, which functions as a shock absorber. It protects the spine during forceful activities including lifting, running, and jumping.
An intervertebral disc has two parts: the nucleus and the annulus. The nucleus is the sponge-like material in the centre. The ligament rings that surround the nucleus to hold it in place is called the annulus.
Degenerative disc disease has multiple causes, including aging. Certain types of vibration, activities, wear and tear, and even smoking can accelerate disc degeneration. Several studies have also proven that genetics also play a role in degenerative changes.
Degeneration starts when the nucleus loses its ability to absorb fluid. As a result, the nucleus dries out and becomes dehydrated, making it unable to absorb shock. Small tears then form in the annulus. When this happens, the disc starts to weaken, collapse, and compression occurs.
Description of Pain
The patient may first feel the symptoms of a deep ache in the centre of the low back. Heavy physical activities and staying in the same position for a long period of time aggravates the pain but resting can help relieve it. Back stiffness may also be felt. At first, the symptoms may last only for a few days but may last longer as the disease progresses. This condition usually affects people ages 20 to 30.
The pain caused by degenerative disc disease may come and go as the years pass. Each time the pain occurs, it may feel worse compared to the last. If not treated properly and immediately, the pain may radiate to the buttocks or thighs. It may also take longer to relieve. Thus, proper treatment is very important.
Spinal adjustment or chiropractic manipulation plays a big role in the treatment of degenerative disc disease. How it is diagnosed and treated will be further discussed in the next article.