Degenerative Disc Disease: What is it?

The human body is made so perfectly, with every part functioning in unison to allow you to live your best life. The body can adapt as you grow, but, unfortunately, there comes the point where it begins to degenerate as you get older.

One of the common causes of pain in your neck and back is degenerative disc disease. What is it, and can a chiropractor help with this “disease”?

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Although it’s referred to as a disease, degenerative disc disease (DDD) is an age-related, naturally occurring condition.

Anatomy of the Spine

The spine is composed of the following five regions:

    • Cervical spine: the neck section consists of seven vertebrae of the neck, including the atlas and the axis.
    • Thoracic spine: the mid-back section consists of twelve vertebrae.
    • Lumbar spine: the lower back section consists of five vertebrae.
    • Sacrum
    • Coccyx

Along with these bones, the spine consists of:

  • Intervertebral discs (or spinal discs)
  • Facet joints
  • Spinal ligaments
  • Spinal muscles
  • Tendons

Together they give the spine skeletal support and allow it to keep the double-S shape. But degenerative disc disease, as the name points out, affects the intervertebral discs.

Intervertebral Discs

The spine has 23 intervertebral discs that serve as shock-absorbers in between each vertebra. The discs cushion the vertebrae giving you back the ability to bend, flex, and twist. 

Each rubbery disc has an inner section that’s the consistency of a gel-like material and a more gelatinous core known as the nucleus pulposus. The outer part of each disc is firmer and contains various nerves.

When these discs start to deteriorate or break down, then you have degenerative disc disease.

The Effects of Degenerative Disc Disorder?

When an intervertebral disc starts degenerating, the pain usually isn’t the result of the disc itself. Within this nucleus pulposus, you will find proteins that can leak and cause swelling and tenderness. The loss of fluid will also lead to these discs losing their ability to act as the cushion your spine requires.

As the outer part of the intervertebral disc degenerates, the disc structure will change and cause instability in the spine. Your body will attempt to compensate for the lack of stability by creating bone spurs that can press against the spinal cord or nerve roots.

Both of these changes in the spinal discs can affect the surrounding structure, leading to pain. For example, if you’re suffering from degenerative disc disease in the neck, you can experience pain in your shoulders, arms, and hands.

Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment

DDD doesn’t always result in pain, but the pain can vary from mild to debilitating when it does. If this condition affects your daily activities, then the best treatment can be different pain management methods.

Visiting your local chiropractor is an excellent method. They can manually adjust the structure of your spine, which will bring relief to tense muscles, tight joints and remove the pressure placed on nerve roots. Chiropractic services also include spinal decompression that can help with the pain by improving mobility in the spine and increasing the disc space.

Other pain management treatments include:

Meet Our Team of Experts

Join the Spine Health & Wellness family by visiting one of our 10 locations in the North Texas area. Our team of experts understands that degenerative disc disease and other conditions can be detrimental to our daily lives.

Get to the bottom of your spinal pain by contacting our office and requesting an appointment today!

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