Many cases of low back pain and, in some cases, neck pain are attributed to the presence of disc degeneration. The usual implication is that such degeneration is to be expected with age and that one must learn to live with the pain. This is not necessarily true. Disc degeneration is not an unavoidable part of aging.
Spinal discs receive their nutrition from surrounding fluids. If the joints are moving freely and the adjacent muscles are balanced, each disc is bathed with nutrients as it is compressed and released during movement. It acts as a sponge and remains elastic. When there is no longer proper movement between the vertebrae attached to the disc, it can no longer expand and contract. Nutrient flow is interrupted and the disc becomes brittle and inelastic.
As the disc degenerates, it causes pressure on surrounding ligaments. This stimulates the production of new bone in the form of protrusions from the vertebrae, or bony spurs. This is what is evident on x-ray, along with decrease in the disc space. There may also be a new bone formation at the posterior spinal joints due to abnormal movement.
Even when degeneration is present, however, it is frequently not the cause of pain. The pain is more often the result of improper movement of the spinal joints and the accompanying stress on ligaments and muscles. This can frequently be relieved by correcting the joint movement. In addition, restoration of proper joint function can prevent further degeneration from occurring by allowing proper nutrient flow to the disc and eliminating strain on the ligaments.
Degenerative disc disease is not a necessary part of aging, as evidenced by the fact that many people in their 70's and 80's have healthy, well preserved discs and no sign of degeneration, while severe degenerative changes can be seen in the early 30's or even sooner if there has been stress on the spine due to injury or other spinal problems.
A degenerative spinal condition is not a contra-indiction for chiropractic care. On the contrary, restoration of movement to the spinal joints can bring relief of back pain and slow down further deterioration! If you have any questions regarding spinal care in general, contact our office.