Degenerative Disc Disease
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What is degenerative disc disease?
Degenerative disc disease is not a medical condition, but rather a description of the changes that occur to your spinal discs as they become worn. These discs are soft and separate the vertebrae that make up the spine. They are the spine’s shock absorbers and allow it to bend, flex and twist. Healthy discs also act as spacers allowing the delicate spinal nerves to leave the spine and travel to their destination. Although degenerative disc disease can take place in any area of the spine, it is most common in the lumbar region.
As we age, the discs change. For most us, this isn’t an issue, and we barely notice any changes to our spines at all. However, for some people, the changes can cause quite a severe neck or back pain. The changes to the discs in your spine can also cause:
• Osteoarthritis – this a breakdown of the cartilage that protects the spinal joints as they move, and usually occurs with extra bony “spurs” or “osteophytes”.
• Herniated discs – these are an abnormal bulge present on the disc. The softer inside of the disc pops out and can cause severe pain and numbness if the bulge connects with a nerve.
• Spinal stenosis – This is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal is an open space that contains nerves and your spinal cord. A narrowing of this canal can cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the arms and legs.
What are the causes of degenerative disc disease?
As we said, as we age, our discs break down or degenerate. For most of us, this presents no problems at all because there is a slow and equal wearing of the whole spine. For some, this results in degenerative disc disease which can cause further complications as we mentioned above. The age-related issues that can cause degenerative disc disease include:
The loss of fluid in your discs – this loss of fluid reduces the discs ability to act as a shock absorber. It makes them less flexible and so more prone to damage. The loss of fluid also makes the discs thinner. This means that the gaps between the vertebrae become narrower and so the spinal bones may rub together.
Tiny cracks in the outer layer – The outer layer of a disc is harder than the inside. Tiny tears in the outer layer can cause the inner portion of the disc to herniate outwards. They can also cause the disc to break entirely if there are enough cracks.
This degeneration of the discs will normally happen as we age. However, there are some things that can speed the process up. Smoking, obesity and lots of physical work, for example, can speed up the process of degenerative disc disease.
However, a sudden injury to the back which leads to a herniated disc, can not only cause degenerative disc disease to speed up, it can actually cause it to start. So, even in young people where degenerative disc disease isn’t common, one injury to the back can begin the process far quicker than nature intended.
One of the common problems we see in the clinic is where there is a specific part of the spine that has become degenerated faster than any other section of the spine. This is a problem. When one section becomes significantly worse than the rest of the spine we seek to answer the following two questions:
“Why is it this disc that is worn more than the rest?”
“What can we do to slow this process as much as possible?”
This is where our uniquely specialised understanding of the spine is coupled with our state-of-the-art technology to help patients suffering from degenerative disc disease and the terrible symptoms that can go along with it.
What are the symptoms of degenerative disc disease?
The symptoms of this back condition vary from person to person. Some people have back or neck pain that can limit their movements, while others have sciatic type pain or chronic pain around the area of their back or neck. The pain isn’t always in the back or neck either. You may have pain in your bum, hips, legs, arms, shoulders, and none in your back at all. The location of the pain depends entirely on the location of the affected disc. This is why a proper diagnosis is crucial and why we take such pride in our consultations, to ensure proper diagnosis and proper treatment of back issues and their symptoms.
Diagnosing degenerative disc disease
As with all our treatments here at The Mayfair Clinic, our degenerative disc disease treatments begin with a consultation. This is where we diagnose the exact issue. We will perform a physical examination of your back, ask you some questions regarding your pain and other symptoms where medically relevant, send you for some expert imaging tests. Once we have compiled all our findings, treatment can begin.
Our aim with our consultations is to be as thorough as we can. You see, with back pain, the pain isn’t always in the place that is causing the issue, in fact, it rarely is. So, you may feel pain running down your leg, but the site of the issue could be in your lower back. We created our consultations so that we can find the underlying cause of all of your symptoms and treat that in order to relieve the symptoms as quickly as possible.
The treatments for degenerative disc disease
Once we have located the site of your degenerative disc disease, we can then put a treatment plan in place. As all our treatment plans are tailored to suit the individual with the condition, we cannot give you an exact treatment plan here. However, we can discuss the technology that will likely be used during your treatments.
The technology used during degenerative disc disease treatment here are The Mayfair Clinic include:
Spinal Impulse Adjusting – This treatment effectively replaces the clicks and pops of old with brand new, safe technology. Spinal impulse adjusting allows us to treat conditions like degenerative disc disease in a controllable, repeatable way. This technology actually allows us to adjust your spine without any surgeries or risky procedures at all. With degenerative disc disease, the area becomes stiff and immobile, restoring movement can help tremendously, which is why we use spinal impulse adjusting.
Laser Therapy – This treatment can help heal and reduce inflammation that is present in an area of the spine. Laser therapy helps to speed up the natural healing of the area by getting more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the area. Laser therapy offers pain relief from a variety of conditions, and so we often use it in conjunction with other treatments.
Spinal Decompression – This method of treatment involves gently stretching the spine in a controllable way to reduce the pressure on the discs. By reducing the pressure, we can reduce pain, swelling and any other symptoms you may have. Degeneration affects the discs ability to withstand the pressure of your body weight. By reversing this during spinal decompression we can give your disc a chance to “breath again”, and patients frequently report how pleasant this can feel!
In all likelihood, your degenerative disc disease treatment will include more than one of the treatment technologies above. By using every technological advancement at our disposal, we can make sure your symptoms and your condition improve as quickly as possible.
To find out more about our degenerative disc disease treatments or if you would like to book in for a consultation, please use the contact form below.