Degenerative Disc Disease
Why do some people get shorter as they age?
As intervertebral discs die, the bony vertebra themselves squash together, causing a loss of height above the waist. The intervertebral discs are jelly-like cushions which maintain the curvature of the spine. Not every disc loses height as you age, however: only those discs which have been injured or which have been deprived of their normal nutrition will die. This long death of the disc is called degenerative disc disease.
The human spine was meant to be in motion. Since the discs do not have blood supply, nutrition flows through the disc only by squishing from cell to cell during spinal motion. If a person sits for long periods of time (depriving the discs of nutrition on a regular basis) or is injured in their back (causing stablization and splinting from the surrounding muscles), then the discs are in danger of slowly starving from lack of motion.
The human body, which is always changing, usually decides that if a joint is not being used properly, it ought not be used at all. In an effort the stabilize the area, the body will create extra bone around the disc. Over time, the disc dies completely, causing a total loss of disc height in that area.
This loss of disc height can also damage the nerves which flow from the spinal cord out between the vertebrae: if the vertebrae get closer together, the space for the nerves to travel through becomes much smaller, causing indirect pressure and inflammation which can negatively impact the nerve's ability to communicate. Degenerative disc disease, therefore, is not just a spine problem: it can affect the whole body as it affects the nervous system.
It is often said that degenerative disc disease is "normal" or "natural", since so many people acquire it as they age. However, if degenerative disc disease is secondary to trauma or lack of motion, then it is not normal and can be prevented or halted.
How We Can Help Your Degenerative Disc Disease
The key to treating degenerative disc disease is early detection. The earlier the disease is seen and diagnosed, the better the results. Disc degeneration is usually best indicated on X-ray, but can be inferred from stiffness or a global lack of range of motion. However, even in the late stages of degenerative disc disease, chiropractic care can provide a great deal of relief as the progression of the disease is stopped.
Since the disc will continue to die as long as there is a lack of motion in the joint, the chiropractic adjustment provides appropriate motion to the joints around the disc. In most cases, the introduction of motion to the hypomobile joints will allow the disc to move more freely, restoring the proper nutritive flow to the disc, and preventing the progression of the disease.
Excellent results have been reported in multiple cases of chiropractic care for degenerative disc disease. An article published in 2011 reports ten patient cases of upper neck degeneration who found great relief in pain and increased range of motion from chiropractic care. The authors of the study even reported that 6 of the 10 patients experienced a restoration of disc height. Anecdotally, Dr. Johnson has seen remarkable reductions in pain and disability from degenerative disc disease in patients after minimal treatments.
Contact Dr. Johnson with any questions regarding your degenerative disc disease.