Posts for category: Decompression
Degenerative disc disease is misnomer, because it’s not really a disease. It is a term that refers to the normal changes in the spine as we age. In particular, it refers to the deterioration of our spinal discs, which are the soft, cushiony discs between our bony vertebrae.
Spinal discs are like shock absorbers, in that they separate the bones and allow the spine to bend, twist, and flex. Degenerative disc disease usually occurs in the lumbar region of the spine (lower back) and the cervical region (neck). It results in
- The breakdown of cartilage, also known as osteoarthritis
- The bulging of discs, also known as disc herniation, and
- The narrowing of the spinal canal, also known as spinal stenosis.
These conditions can lead to pain and nerve problems, due to pressure on the nerves and spinal cord.
The cause of degenerative disc disease is aging. Aging leads to a loss of fluid in the discs, making them more brittle and less flexible. They also become thinner, which brings the vertebrae closer together. In addition, small cracks or tears in the discs may cause leakage of the jellylike material inside. This causes bulging, breaking, or fragmenting of the discs.
Degenerative disc disease does not affect everyone the same way and at the same rate. It is usually worse among smokers and those who do heavy physical labor that taxes the spine. People who are overweight and obese tend to have worse symptoms as well. A sudden injury can also initiate the process of deterioration.
When the discs between the vertebrae get thinner, there is less cushion for the spine and it loses stability. In response, the body generates bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, which can cause pain due to pressure on the spinal nerves. The pain may be felt in the back or the neck, depending on the person and the location of the degeneration. Discs that are affected in the neck region can lead to pain in the arms or neck, while affected discs in the lumbar or lower region can lead to leg, back, or buttock pain.
Your doctor or chiropractor can diagnose degenerative disc disease through the use of a physical examination and a medical history. He or she will look for areas of tenderness, range of motion, pain, numbness, reflexes, and any additional conditions such as fractures or infections. Imaging tests are not particularly useful for degenerative disc disease. Treatment usually includes ice or heat, anti-inflammatory medications, and rest. Stretches and physical therapy are often recommended. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to remove the damaged disc(s).
The New Way to Treat Herniated Discs Without Surgery
By Dr. James D. Edwards
If you’re suffering from a herniated disc and chiropractic adjustmentsor therapy have not yielded sufficient benefit, you should ask your doctor if you might be a candidate for spinal decompression therapy.
What is spinal decompression therapy?
It’s a nonsurgical, traction-based treatment for herniated or bulging discs in the neck and low back. Anyone who has back, neck, arm or leg pain caused by a degenerated or damaged disc may be helped by spinal decompression therapy.
Specific conditions that may be helped by this therapeutic procedure include herniated or bulging discs, spinal stenosis, sciatica, facet syndrome, spondylosis or even failed spinal surgery.
Many patients, some with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-documented disc herniations, have achieved “good” to “excellent” results after spinal decompression therapy.
The computerized traction head on the decompression table or machine is the key to the therapy’s effectiveness. The preprogrammed patterns for ramping up and down the amount of axial distraction eliminate muscle guarding and permit decompression to occur at the disc level. This creates a negative pressure within the disc, allowing the protruded or herniated portion to be pulled back within the normal confines of the disc, which permits healing to occur.
Your specific treatment plan will be determined by the doctor after your examination. Based on research and my clinical experience, the best results are achieved with 20 sessions over a six-week period. To reduce inflammation and assist the healing process, supporting structures sometimes are treated with passive therapies (ice/heat/muscle stimulation), chiropractic adjustments (when indicated) and/or active rehabilitation in order to strengthen the spinal musculature.
There are many spinal decompression systems in use today, most of which work equally well. The cost for 20 sessions can range from $1,000 to $5,000 or more. While this may seem like a lot, it is very reasonable, considering the cost and potential adverse outcomes associated with spine surgery.
Spinal decompression therapy has saved many people from spinal surgery. If you are suffering from a degenerated or herniated disc, I encourage you to explore safe and effective spinal decompression therapy before risking surgery. The rationale for treating a herniated disc without resorting to surgery has research support on its side: According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association,surgery is no more effective than non-invasive treatments, including chiropractic care, for patients with lumbar disc herniation causing sciatica.
Ask your doctor for more information about spinal decompression and if you might be a candidate. If your doctor does not yet offer spinal decompression therapy, they can help refer you to someone who does.
What Does It Mean?
Not familiar with some of the terminology in this article? Don’t worry: Here’s a brief explanation of what these terms mean in relation to your spine.
Anulus Fibrosus: The tough outer ring of a vertebral disc; it encases the nucleus pulposus (see description below) within the disc.
Facet Syndrome: An irritation of one or more of the joints on the back of the spinal vertebrae, which comprise the spinal column.
Herniated Disc: Displacement of the center of a vertebral disc through a crack in the outer layer. Disc herniation can put pressure on spinal nerves and cause pain.
Muscle Guarding: Muscle spasming, often in response to a painful stimulus.
Nucleus Pulposus: A gel-like substance within each intervertebral disc, surrounded by the anulus fibrosus.
Sciatica: Pain in the lower back, buttocks, hips, or adjacent anatomical structures, frequently attributable to spinal dysfunction.
Spinal Stenosis: Narrowing of the spine at one or more of three locations: in the center of the spine, where nerves branch from the spine, or in the space between vertebrae. This puts pressure on spinal nerves and can cause pain.
Spondylosis: Otherwise known as spinal arthritis, spondylosis is a degenerative condition in which spinal discs weaken, particularly with age.
James D. Edwards, DC, a graduate of Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis, Mo, has been in practice for more than 30 years.