Degenerated Disc: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

What are the Symptoms of Degenerated Discs?

How do you fix a degenerated disc?
Often degenerated disc disease (DDD) cannot be completely fixed. A lot of degeneration is permanent. The right adjustments, rehabilitation, and traction can often take the stresses off the disc that caused the degeneration and prevent it from further degenerating. But once it’s degenerated it will usually never be perfect again. Very early stages of degeneration can often be reversed. It can, however, often be improved a significant amount. Colleagues of mine who do Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) spinal rehabilitation, the system we use in the office, just presented a paper at the recent annual convention, that showed significant disc regeneration (thicker discs) from our unique CBP methods of exercise, adjustments, and traction. This is similar to many of our patient's experiences with reduced pain, better function, and decreased degeneration in the discs. But it’s MUCH better to correct abnormal biomechanics (subluxations) that cause disc degeneration before it develops by catching it early. That’s why being evaluated and X-rayed by a certified CBP doc as soon as possible is so important. It’s best to evaluate children well before they reach skeletal maturity, as subluxations can be corrected much more easily before full maturity is reached.
Is degenerative disc disease serious?
Degenerative disc disease is very serious. It is a sign that that the discs are under extreme pressure for a long time. The discs are very resilient, but they can’t hold out forever. By the time we can see degeneration on an X-ray, the pressure has usually been wearing out the disc(s) involved for over 10 years. It is strongly associated with progressively worse and worse pain, disability, and abnormal nervous system function affecting whole-body health, and posture.
What causes degenerative disc disease?
DDD is caused by extreme pressures on the discs from vertebral subluxations (misalignments in the spine that interfere with nervous system function.) It’s much like the suspension of your car is out of alignment. The tires will wear much more quickly than normal, and the worse the alignment, the worse and quicker the damage. When the vertebra is out of alignment, it can put over 200 times more pressure on the disc than normal! When the curves in the spine are normal, they act as shock absorbers for the spine, like a spring on your truck that protects you from feeling every bump and pothole in the road. The curves protect the discs! If you are lacking these natural curves it puts all the “stress of the road” straight into the discs. They’re not designed to hold that much pressure! As an example, try putting a very tight, rigid plaster cast from your toes on both feet all the way up to your armpits. Then hobble down 30 flights of stairs. See how your ankles, knees, and back feel! You’d be in a lot of pain! The knees, ankles, and spine are designed to flex and bend, absorbing shock. That’s exactly how it is with your spine when it doesn’t have curves!
Do you need surgery for a degenerative disc?
First off, of course, I’m not a surgeon and am not qualified to determine who does and does not need surgery. I refer to a surgeon to determine that. But in my experience surgery is needed when the degeneration has gotten so bad that either the disc herniates and compresses the nerve, when the canal that holds the spinal cord becomes too stenotic (narrowed) from the degeneration, or when the spine is so unstable that it requires surgical stabilization. Again, it is far better to handle the subluxations early than wait till surgery is needed! Many people think that once they have surgery they cannot be helped with Chiropractic. That is completely untrue! Surgery does not correct the underlying subluxations that caused the need for surgery in the first place. Surgery is often like patching or replacing a tire but not correcting the alignment that caused it to wear out; you need to replace the tire but get the alignment checked too! A great deal of modern surgeons is working with CBP Chiropractors either to prevent the need for surgery, prior to surgery to get the best surgical outcomes, or after surgery to rehabilitate the spine to maximum function.
At what age does degenerative disc disease begin?
DDD generally requires 10 or more years to become visible on an X-ray, but it is known that permanent scar tissue in the soft tissues develops within 2 weeks of immobility from a subluxated joint. We are seeing DDD now in films on younger and younger children than ever before. We believe it is from the excessive amount of screen time. It is more important than ever to have your children checked for subluxation as early as possible! We are seeing DDD now as early in some cases as 15 years old!


Hey guys, I get the question all the time. What is a degenerated disc? So in this video, we're going to talk about what the disc is and what it's job. Why it degenerates, because there's always a reason. And what can we do about it? And how correctable is it once it has degenerated? So your disc is an amazing thing we learned in school, at least I did in elementary school, that is, that the disc is a shock absorber, if your disc is your shock absorber, you're in very big trouble. The job of the disc is to, it's called the force transducer, and what it does is it allows movement to happen in the spine, and it does somewhat cushion the joints of the spine, but if it's a shock absorber, you're in very big trouble. The shock absorber of your spine is the curves of the spine, just like your knees, you do have a meniscus in your knees, which is like a disc, but if my knees were locked totally straight like if I had a full body cast from my chest, all the way down to my toes and I had to go down 30 flights of stairs, I'd probably have a problem in my knees by the time I got to the bottom of those stairs.

The flexion of the knee is the shock absorber of the knee, the same with our hips, the same with our ankles, and the same with our spine. We're supposed to have three opposing curves in the spine, one in the neck, one in the mid back, and one in the lower back. The most common area to have a degenerated disc is in the lower back. The lumbar spinal of the neck is also very common. So discs degenerate because the spine is misaligned, so the normal spine in any X-ray, 99.9% of our patients, we x-ray to determine the actual mechanics of their spine, so this green line here is normal, don't know how well you can see it on the video, but it's important to know that there is a normal... The red line is where this patient is, and so the red line shows us that the patient's spine is translated posteriorly.

We call that a negative translation about the Z-axis of the thoracic spine, our group of chiropractic bifurcates categorizes these so we can actually correct them. But so she has a big translated posterior thoracic spine, it's shifting, it's creating sheer on the disc, especially this L45 here, so the disc... The vertebrae should be lined up on top of one another, so this is sliding backward, so all these fibers here, if you can picture that are being sheered and torn upon, they're also being smashed because no longer does she have this normal curve, she has a reverse curve in her lower back, it curves the wrong direction, so instead of that easy flexion, it's jamming and cramming and creating stress, sheer and compression every single day on those discs, it's a recipe for failure, so what's gonna happen is over time, they're going to degenerate, so whereas normally...

These are two vertebrae, let us call this L4 and 5, because, in the lower back, this is the most common disc to have a problem, so the disc is like a wet leather washer that holds the bones apart. It's this amazing miraculous design. The fibers of these discs are lined up to create multiple 30, 60, and 90 triangles, the most stable structure in the universe. God created you brilliantly. These can take a lot of stress, but they can only take so much stress. So what happens is, when they're lined up and when the curve is taking shock from jumping, running, sitting, standing, doing all the things that we do, these discs stay very healthy for a very, very long time. When there's movement in your body, it's a fantastic thing, these discs, they don't have a direct blood supply, so they need nutrients from the bath of the spinal fluid and other fluids around them. From blood near there, the disc actually pulls fluids in through here, and it's supposed to circulate through what's called the end plate of the vertebra, the bottom, and top of these vertebrae, they're actually like a sponge, it's a matrix where fluid flows in through the disc and in through the vertebral end plate through here, and then out through the vertebra itself, it's supposed to flow like that when there's movement.

Now, if the vertebra is subluxated or misaligned, that can be just one or two segments that are shifted out of alignment, like this compressing one side or could be from rotated on the X-axis, compressed like that. It's going to create abnormal forces on this disc. The disc itself will degenerate. Why does it degenerate if it's such a perfect design? Well, it is a perfect design, but let's picture that you're sitting on the ground and you got an elephant sitting on your chest for five, 10 or 15, or 20 years. You can't breathe very well, right? So your lungs are going to compress, they're not going to function as well, and eventually, your ribs are going to break, you're going to have all sorts of problems from that elephant, so with this compressive load here, like that... New pen. Thanks, Christine, for having another pen there.

So with a compressive load just like that, compression here, and even sheer loads on this disc, there's only so much they can put up with. It's creating a lot of stresses on those joints, the discs are going to degenerate, so as they degenerate, this fluid flow through here slows down or even stops, and the discs don't get the nutrients that they're supposed to have, the discs will collapse and degenerate. These end plates here, they become scarred, they become scar tissue. Literally, they become thicker, and we stop that normal fluid flow through the disc and through the end plate of the vertebra, and over time they degenerate worse and worse. So it's a major problem. This is the reason why people get bulging discs because of those sheer forces, the degenerated discs it's a major problem creating a lot of pain, and it will cut off life through your nervous system. The whole reason that we chiropractors exist is because life is generated in the brain, flows like a river through the spinal cord and out through the nerves, a go-between the bones of the spine. This is what brings life to every cell, tissue and organ in every single vertebrate's life and body. We want the power to the reproductive system to deliver to the heart and lungs, to the immune system, and to the digestive system. This will cut off life to that as well as cause pain.

We don't want any of that. So what do we do about it as doctors of chiropractic in our specialty chiropractic biophysics, the most scientifically proven method to correct these things available anywhere that I know of in the world, what our job is is to restore the normal mechanics to not just this one joint traditional chiropractic is very, very valuable, and that if a vertebra is twisted like that, then we're going to untwist it as a traditional chiropractic adjustment, but what we're going to do very rarely are just two vertebrae displaced, in this case here, the whole spine is out of alignment. It's got kind of the shaggy from Scooby-Doo posture. So we have to correct that. We'll correct it with the right exercises, adjustments, and traction. She can't just strengthen her core. She strengthens her core like almost every trainer. We hear a lot of people saying, "Oh, you just have to strengthen your core," you don't wanna strengthen it where it is because it's out of alignment, we gotta get it shifted to where it belongs, then that's going to take a lot of this sheer off and correct the posture.

So we exercise, then make adjustments that correct that in the mirror image. So if she's here, we have to bring her here with her exercises, with her adjustments. With her traction, specific tractioning for 15 to 20 minutes, three, four, five times a week of getting the spine back into alignment and then at home as well on special general blocks, we're going to work to correct the alignment, so the cause of it is gone. So I very often get the question, can it be fixed? Well, once there's degeneration, there will always be some degeneration. That's why it's so key to take care of kids from when they're tiny... Raise them up in the way they should go, and when they're older, they won't depart from it. That's the way it should be. We want their whole spines in proper alignment right from the very beginning. Still, once there's some degeneration, there's always hope we can always move it some, but it's so much better to start earlier, so the best thing is when someone comes in 62 years old. They say, "Oh, the pain just started yesterday, doc, and I do an X-ray on a minute, and you can tell their spine's been degenerating for 34 years, usually we can tell within three or four years how long ago the misalignment occurred, so we're going to be able to tell how long ago it occurred, but the ideal thing is bringing your kids and your grandkids before they get this degenerated, but we always can help...

I've never seen anyone that we couldn't help. Now sometimes people may need surgery, they've let it go too far, but they should take care of their spine before and after that surgery, and we do work with surgeons to be able to refer when necessary, so those are the ins and outs of a disc, the best advice I can give you is take care of yours as early as possible, but if you are having pain or problems, let us properly evaluate it to see exactly what the cause of the disc is, because where one person's posture is this, we need to correct that, it's not the same for everyone. Literally, other people have the opposite problem with the same result, the disc problem, so we need to correct whatever their posture is. So I hope that helps you understand what a degenerated disc is. As always, if you have any questions, let us know, and we'll be happy to get back to you. Have a blessed day.

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