Part 1: Causes and Symptoms

Back pain often originates from the intervertebral discs. Your chiropractor may diagnose degenerative disc if you have back or neck pain. I am going to discuss how degenerative disc disease (DDD) develops, how chiropractors diagnose this condition and some treatment options.

How Degenerative Disc Disease Happens

The spine consists of twenty-four spinal bones called the vertebrae. In between each 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 ageing. Certain types of vibration, activities, wear and tear, and even smoking can accelerate disc degeneration. Several studies have shown that genetics also plays 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 and collapse. 

degenerative disc disease

Description of Pain

The patient will 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 can aggravate 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 as the disease progresses, the symptoms could last longer. 

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, the pain may radiate to the buttocks or thighs. It may also take longer to relieve. 


Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease

Your chiropractor will take a medical history and physical examination.  The patient is then asked to describe their symptoms and how the pain is affecting their daily activities. It is important to let the Chiropractor know what kinds of activities and positions exacerbate or relieve the issue.

The Chiropractor will then conduct a thorough physical examination. This includes assessing the posture and range of motion . This is to determine which spinal movements cause more pain. The chiropractor may do a neurological examination which involves checking skin sensation,muscle strength and reflexes.

If the symptoms are severe and the patient is unable to be treated the chiropractor may send the patient for x-rays. The x-ray will show if one of more discs have collapsed. IBone spurs (small outgrowth of bone), it will also show in the x-ray. However, more information may be required and this is where a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan can highlight any problems in the spinal nerves.

Treating Degenerative Disc Disease with Chiropractic Manipulation

Chiropractic manipulation is an excellent option for treating degenerative disc disease. The main goal of chiropractic treatment is to relieve pain and improve mobility. When you are moving better, the pain will diminish. As well as improving mobility through treatment chiropractors will often prescribe an exercise programme to strengthen the back and core muscles to help release tight muscles. We aim to improve your mobility, reduce you a pain and teach you to look after your back at our chiropractic clinics in Chester and North Wales .

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