Your spine consists of various components, including the bony vertebrae that protect the spinal cord and soft, spongy intervertebral discs that absorb shock and provide cushioning.
Each aspect of the spine is essential for movement, sensation, and posture, so when one thing is off, every part of your body can be affected. One of the common causes of low back pain is degenerative disc disease.
The spongy discs are prone to injury and degeneration over time, causing the vertebrae to move closer together and possibly causing nerve compression. This is a chronic condition, but there's help available.
Dr. Jason Ablett and the team at Pinnacle Health Chiropractic offer manual chiropractic adjustments and other helpful techniques to deal with back pain. Dr. Ablett is an experienced chiropractor specializing in degenerative disc disease, back pain, and sciatica.
What is degenerative disc disease?
Degenerative disc disease is a condition that affects the intervertebral discs, which sit between each vertebra in the spine. These discs are essential because they cushion the spine and absorb shocks to the spinal column.
The main component of degenerative disc disease is the wearing away of the intervertebral discs. Some degeneration is normal with age, but it can happen earlier in life, causing several problems:
- Spinal stenosis
- Herniated discs
- Adult scoliosis
When the intervertebral discs degenerate, the bones rub together, causing pain and nerve impingement, among other symptoms.
After age 40, most people have some form of degeneration in the spinal discs. However, not everyone experiences pain or other symptoms. Injury to the spine and obesity put you at a higher risk for early degenerative disc disease.
Do I have degenerative disc disease?
The only way to know for sure if you have degenerative disc disease is through advanced imaging studies. Symptoms of back pain that doesn't get better, along with other signs, usually prompt your healthcare provider to order an X-ray or MRI.
These tests show the spinal bones and discs, allowing your doctor to diagnose the problem. They may also suspect degenerative disc disease if you have any of the following five symptoms:
1. Worse pain with sitting
Sitting puts the most load on your spinal discs, three times more than standing. If you have pain that's worse when you're sitting, you may be dealing with degenerative disc disease.
2. Numbness or tingling
As the discs deteriorate, the vertebrae move closer, putting pressure on the surrounding spinal nerves. Depending on where the discs are worn down, nerve symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the legs and arms result.
3. Pain that worsens with bending or twisting
Bending and twisting require the spine to move in opposite directions, which puts strain on the nerves, discs, and vertebrae. When the discs wear down, bending over may allow the vertebrae to touch, causing immediate pain.
Twisting also strains the nerves and vertebrae, which are closer together with degenerative disc disease.
4. Improved pain with walking or movement
Movement often improves the pain of degenerative disc disease, especially when walking around. Sitting and standing in one place for long periods stresses the spine and discs. Movement improves blood flow and allows the muscles to support the rest of the spine.
5. Improved pain while lying down
Laying down or changing positions often relieves pressure on the degenerated discs, improving pain. However, keeping your spine in alignment even while lying down is essential to ensure you don't put more pressure on the discs and nerves.
Treatments for degenerative disc disease
Although degenerative disc disease is a chronic problem, you can successfully manage it without the need for surgery. Most people with mild to moderate pain manage their symptoms with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications.
However, if you can't control your pain, Dr. Ablett offers various treatments to align your spine and take stress off of the discs. Treatments he provides for degenerative disc disease include:
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic adjustments
- TENS therapy
- Rehabilitative exercise
- Manual tissue manipulation
Treatment aims to improve the health of the muscles, nerves, and spinal components and take excess stress off the discs. Dr. Ablett uses holistic and proven techniques to relieve even the worst back pain.
To learn more about our treatments for degenerative disc disease, call our office in Kirkland, Washington, to schedule an appointment or book an appointment on our website.