Degenerative Disc Disease is a Misnomer
A diagnosis of "degenerative disc disease" is alarming to many patients because it sounds like a progressive, threatening disease. However, it is not really a disease, and it is not strictly degenerative.
For most people the term degenerative understandably implies that the symptoms will get worse with age. However, the term does not apply to the symptoms, but rather describes the process of the disc degenerating over time.
Degenerative Disc Symptoms
Both the inflammation and micromotion instability can cause lower back or neck muscle spasms. The muscle spasm is the body's attempt to stabilize the spine. It is a reflex, and although the body's response of muscle spasm is not necessary for the safety of the nerve roots, it can be quite painful. The muscle spasms associated with the instability are thought to cause the flare-ups of intense pain often associated with degenerative disc disease.
Degenerative Disc Causes
While there is an association between the general effects of aging and degenerative changes of the discs, there is a strong relationship between the factors of obesity, smoking, repeated physical stressors and particularly, injuries. Physical stresses can bring on inflammation which brings about scarring and restricted (or aberrant) motion and muscle spasm. With reduced motion, disc dehydration takes place at an excel orated rate. Thus, it is often found in younger adults who have been involved previously in injuries to their spine. Age is usually a secondary issue to untreated spines.
Degenerative Disc Treatment
In our chiropractic world, we call this post traumatic degenerative condition, "subluxation-degeneration." We attempt to improve joint motion and balance the muscle responses with specific chiropractic adjustments. There is a time process involved in neuro-muscular re-education that is required to help the body recover to a more desirable state. Certain foods also can slow or retard the inflammatory process that adds to the pain.