Did you know that Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is now the most common impairment for which people apply for disability benefits?
Ever heard someone say they have a bad disc, disc bulge, slipped disc or herniated disc? They are all talking about the same piece of anatomy, the intervertebral disc (the pad between our our spinal bones). Damage and breakdown of this disc can contribute to each of these aforementioned problems.
DDD has also been linked to opioid dependency and drug abuse, as well as financial strain on families and the health care system! However the name is more of a misnomer, this “disease” is not a pathology or congenital variation, and it is as hereditary as cavities. Rather it is an accumulation of poor habits and physical stress on the skeletal system, and it is a condition that we have the ability to prevent!
So what causes DDD?
It is simple, in a nutshell DDD occurs when accumulation of pressure on the vertebrae (bones of the spine) restricts movement between the individual segments. This misalignment is called a subluxation, which you may have heard your chiropractor mention. The subluxation reduces movement of the intervertebral discs which act as bumpers in between the vertebrae. When the discs lose their ability to move, they lose their ability to stay hydrated and pliable, leading to a breakdown and weakening of the resilient tissue of the disc. The discs are highly sensitized and can become very painful when stressed, an intelligent design that keeps us from further damaging ourselves.
The wearing down of the discs create several big problems. One, the compressed vertebra causes a reaction of new bone growth, known as osteoarthritis. Bone can only support so much compression until the laws of physics crush the material. Fortunately our bodies are intelligent, much more than we give it credit for, and responds to the compression by producing more bone in the areas of high stress. These new bone formations are thickened rough growths that begin to reduce the ability for normal movement of the joint and disc, and it is permanent. If the compression is not relieved, our innate intelligence continues to sense danger and continues to produce more protective bone until it causes the fusion between vertebrae or narrowing (stenosis) of the central and inter-vertebral canals. We now recognize that osteoarthritis can begin within 3 months of a subluxation between vertebra, so time is essential for prevention. The other problem is that dehydrated and damaged discs become thinner reducing the space for the spinal cord as well as the space with the nerve roots exit the spinal column from the spinal cord. This stress impedes the electrical signals the nervous system uses to coordinate and control the function of every cell, tissue, and organ in the body! We often recognize this condition when muscle strength begins to be reduced, or pain begins to travel down an extremity. Stress of the electrically charged nervous system keeps tissue from functioning at its full capacity, something to consider when that tissue makes up an organ, such as the heart or stomach. When multiple segments of the spine are compromised we may experience chronic pain and inflammation leading to significant physical and emotional strain, often treated with opioids or surgery. Constant pain is not a happy place to be and it is not normal, the good new is that the cause can be fixed* by removing restriction! Better yet, it can be prevented in the first place. Movement : life :: immobility : death.
So how can Chiropractic help?
Chiropractic focuses on reducing pressure and stress of our nervous system by correcting subluxations and maintaining proper alignment and posture of the spine. Even minor external traumas can force our vertebrae out of alignment causing the aforementioned subluxations. This can be the result of simply missing a step or a sudden jolt from a surprise. More often it is the culprit of the constant strain of gravity on any weakness in our posture. The pull of gravity never stops. Trauma and repetitive stress are two major causes of spinal problem. Traumas to a specific location on a bone will cause new bone growth, as is the example of a fracture. Repetitive stress from sitting at a computer, looking down at a cell phone, slumping in a couch are stresses caused by the effects of gravity, unavoidable, so they eventually accumulate just like plaque on teeth that are not maintained. Oral hygiene and spinal hygiene go hand in hand. The major difference is that your spine protects the nervous system with is required to keep us alive. The less stress on the nerves, the better our bodies systems function, the more resilient and capable the tissues are. As a subluxation increases stress on the nervous system, it decreases the communication to tissues and organ function making them weaker and more susceptible to disease and damage, so an adjustment can go a long way to keeping our body functions (including our discs) working at their best!
For more information about Grand Traverse Family Chiropractic, Dr. Rob Lyons and Dr. Brian Marhofer check them out on the web at www.grandtraversefamilychiro.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/grandtraversefamilychiro and www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009026113759.
Grand Traverse Family Chiropractic is conveniently located in the Copper Ridge development of Traverse City, Michigan.