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How Can a Chiropracter Help my Degenerative Disk Disease?

The spine is made up of 24 bony vertebrae with rubbery, cushioning discs between them to prevent the bones from rubbing together and to allow for flexing and bending of the neck and back. Over time, these discs become worn from use, and they can rupture, dry out, or slip out of position. The resulting problem is called degenerative disc disease (DDD), although it’s not actually a disease but rather a naturally occurring, age-related condition.

Jason Ablett, DC, sees a lot of DDD at Pinnacle Health Chiropractic in Kirkland, Washington. He understands the pain and difficulty the condition causes, and he’s committed to using his chiropractic skills to help his patients find relief. Here’s what he wants you to know about DDD and the way chiropractic care can help alleviate your symptoms.

What are the symptoms of DDD?

Degenerative disc disease has a wide range of symptoms, and sometimes (usually at the start), it may have no symptoms at all. The most common onset of symptoms are pain and weakness in the back, which then radiates to another area. Symptoms usually worsen over time.

Pain from DDD can be mild, or it can be debilitating, interfering with movement and the ability to perform daily activities. The degeneration of the discs can lead to osteoarthritis, which adds another layer of pain and stiffness in the back.

Where the pain goes depends on which part of the spine is affected. If the damage occurs in the lumbar spine (lower back), the pain may travel to the buttocks and upper thighs along nerves that exit the spinal column. You might also experience numbness, tingling, or both, in the legs and feet.

If the damage occurs in the cervical spine (neck area), the pain may radiate out to the shoulder, arm, and hand.

Instability in the spine can lead to painful muscle spasms in the lower back or neck as the body tries to adjust to the problem. The pain can become more intense as you sit, bend, lift, or twist. Sometimes walking, lying down, or shifting your position can offer some relief.

How is DDD diagnosed?

At your consultation with Dr. Ablett, he takes a complete medical history and performs a number of tests. A physical exam should include:

Muscle strength

The doctor will test your muscle strength and look for signs of atrophy or wasting. He has you walk back and forth and move in different directions to see if you have abnormal movements, show diminished strength, and/or display a limited range of motion. He also tests whether pressure applied to an area of the back causes pain, indicating a degenerated disc.

Nerve function

Dr. Ablett taps specific areas of your body with a reflex hammer. If you have a poor reaction — or no reaction — it may indicate you have a compressed nerve root causing the pain. He also tests your nerves with hot and cold stimuli to see how well they respond to temperature changes.

He may also request imaging tests. CT and MRI scans are often used to obtain information about the health of the spinal nerves and discs, and to show how your spine is aligned. Dr. Ablett provides his patients with an MRI review, comparing past scans to current ones to diagnose the problem correctly.

What are the treatments for DDD?

Once Dr. Ablett has diagnosed DDD, he develops a tailored rehabilitative exercise plan for you. Exercise is important for many reasons:

Your treatment sessions could also include:

Chiropractic adjustments, or spinal manipulation, involve many different techniques, such as:

Other common manual therapies include:

Each office visit is likely to vary, as Dr. Ablett adjusts your treatment plan according to your pain level and progression with each of the therapies.

Is your back hurting? Is it sending pain to other parts of your body and affecting your daily life? Chiropractic care can help. Give our office a call at 425-368-5753 or book an appointment online today.

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