What is Degenerative Joint/Disc Disease?
As we age, the water and protein content of the body’s cartilage changes. This change results in weaker, more fragile and thin cartilage. Because both the discs and the joints that stack the vertebrae (facet joints) are partially composed of cartilage, these areas are subject to wear and tear over time (degenerative changes). The gradual deterioration of the disc between the vertebrae is referred to as Degenerative Disc Disease.
Degenerative Disc Disease, DDD, is always component of Degenerative Joint Disease, DJD, and is typically associated with aging after an injury. As you age after an injury, your discs, like other joints in the body, can degenerate (break down) and become problematic: that’s a natural part of growing older as your body deals with years of strain, overuse, and maybe even misuse. However, DDD can occur in people as young as 20, so sadly, youth doesn’t always protect you from this disc-related condition.
Degenerative disc disease, as the name suggests, involves the intervertebral discs. Those are the cushions between your vertebrae in your spine. They help your back to dissipate shock carry weight and allow for multidirectional motions of the spine while maintaining stability. As you age, the discs can lose flexibility, elasticity, and shock absorbing characteristics. They also become thinner as they dehydrate, following an injury or overuse. When all that happens, the discs change from a supple state that allows fluid movement to a stiff and rigid state, a subluxation, that restricts your movement and can cause pain.
When a subluxation is present over time your body starts adapting to it, by dehydrating the disc. If the disc dehydrates too much, a disc bulge can develop. Over time when this happens, the body begins to stabilize the area by creating bone spurs on both above and below the disc. When this happens the condition elevates to the label, degenerative joint disease since it affects the entire joint around the disc.
What symptoms are associated with Degenerative Disc Disease and Degenerative Joint Disease?
Degenerative disc disease and degenerative joint disease can affect any part of the spine, but most commonly occurs in your low back (lumbar spine) or neck (cervical spine). The symptoms can vary from non-existent to severe. This process of varying disc pathology can be very diverse(see Fig 1) and has been evolving for years with episodic bouts of neck or low back pain Where you have the pain will depend on where in your spine has the disc degeneration. The pain can start as muscle soreness and stiffness, and as the condition intensifies can transition to include any of the following; numbness, burning, tingling, and/or shooting pain in the arms or legs to the hands or fingers.
In most circumstances you may notice more pain when sitting prolonged periods, bending, lifting or twisting increases the symptoms. While less pain is noticed with activities like walking, running, and other activities that you change positions frequently, lying down may also decrease your pain. If you notice your symptoms getting worse, have leg weakness, pain numbness, tingling, disabling pain or loss of bowel or bladder control you need to seek immediate treatment.
There is a possibility in some cases that the episode of pain will resolve, but the underlying problem will still remain. In most cases, the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more chronic the condition becomes, making it more difficult to achieve your desired results.
Conservative Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease and Degenerative Joint Disease in Fort Collins
SPINAL ADJUSTMENT – to restore proper joint function, improve spinal alignment and improve nervous system regulation.
ACTIVE EXERCISE THERAPY – to improve muscle balance and tone, stabilize biomechanical patterns and improve underlying functional stability.
These Fort Collins therapy options can also reduce, and possibly eliminate, reliance on pain-relief medications. As a successful chiropractor in Fort Collins for many years, Dr. Ullom has found his patients have been more than just satisfied with the treatment; they have been astounded by the results.
For more information about Fort Collins treatment and our services, if you have any questions, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, please do not hesitate to call us at 970-491-9191.