Q: I HAVE RECENTLY BEEN TOLD THAT I HAVE DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE. HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN AND WHAT CAN I DO?
A: The discs in the back act as shock absorbers between each of the bony vertebrae. As many people have learned first-hand, bone painfully rubs against bone when the discs deteriorate. These natural cushions can sustain damage over the years as we twist our bodies or lift improperly, or experience falls. There are many other ways that this can happen like being overweight, not maintaining flexibility, repetitive stress from posture imbalances and even sleeping habits. Chiropractors see a large number of patients suffering from disc problems.
A commonly overlooked but a very important point in this matter is that many back injuries are caused because disc tissues do not receive the proper nutrients. Healthy discs take in required nutrients from surrounding tissue fluids by a process called imbibition. This means that by movement, pressure in the disc fluctuates casing a positive and then negative pressure. This pushes waste products out and literally pulls nutrients into the disc. If you do not regularly move your spine and stretch the discs, you will not create imbibition and fluid exchange will not occur. If this fluid movement is constrained, waste products quickly build and consume nutritional substances. Healthy tissues actually die from starvation. The disc becomes weak and stiff – virtually waiting for a reason to fail and create pain and injury. Or it may never injure but will slowly deteriorate and become degenerative.
Chiropractic spinal adjustments lessen nutritional disc degeneration. Through manipulation, the doctor restores the normal movement patterns of the spinal tissue. This replenishes the fluids by restoring range of motion and starts sending nutrients to the discs. Adjustments also realign spinal vertebrae and thus take unnecessary stress off the discs. Sometimes a disc can be too degenerative to actually get fixed and then the goal of treatment becomes to manage the pain and teach a person how to better manage their spine so that the process can slow down. Many chiropractors are very proficient in treatments for disc problems that do not require surgery. Talk to a chiropractor about your options.
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