I am sure you have heard or are even diagnosed with lumbar degenerative disc disease. I come across a lot of articles on back pain sites that don't tell the full or true story about the development of degeneration of lumbar discs. On the other hand I see a lot of patients in my Clinic that tell me that they have been diagnosed with a degenerative disc in the lumbar spine or cervical spine.
These patients are under the impression that nothing can be done or it is the end of the world. Nothing is further from the truth... unfortunately a lot of information online presents disc degeneration as a process that is normal as we get older and therefore nothing can be done about it...
What is Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease?
The degeneration of a disc is diagnosed (noted on a MRI scan) when the height of that disc has become less. This is also known as de-hydration of the disc. Basically the disc will have lost it's fluidity and with it's suppleness and the optimum function of the disc is lost...
2 main functions of the disc:
1) movement guidance of the vertebrae
2) shock absorbing
...maybe a third one should be keeping the spinal joints surfaces apart and maintain good space (foramen) where the spinal nerves leaves the spine.
For those interested here is an interactive video that 'Spinal Health' posted which shows what degeneration of the discs is...(please click the video below to be taken to the Spine Health website to watch the video)
Now you have a better understanding of lumbar degenerative disc disease, let's have a look at the myths that surround this condition...
Myths About Degenerative Disc Disease Lumbar Spine
As I mentioned earlier most information online presents lumbar disc degeneration as a process that is 'normal' as we get older. This is true to a certain extend, but the REAL reason why we develop lumbar disc degeneration is because we 'walk upright'.
Yes that sound a little weird I agree, but before you think I have totally lost my marbles let me explain...
Myth 1 - Disc Degeneration is Part of Getting Older
Because we walk upright the spine and it's structures, like the discs, are under constant compression due to 'gravity'. This constant daily compression causes the discs to loose excess fluid and with it over time becomes de-hydrated. On the other hand the discs don't get the necessary nutrients, which are also absorbed with the fluid intake, for long term health.
This causes the discs to become degenerative much earlier in our lives then is necessary!
Myth 2 - Degenerative Disc Disease Will Only Get Worse
Another mis-conception is the believe that the process of degeneration will only get worse and nothing can be done about it. This is only the case if you allow your discs to be constant under daily compression from gravity.
No I am not suggesting you should be crawling around for the rest of your life...
Somehow you need to allow the discs to be able to replenish the fluids on a regular basis and with it to allow the absorption of the important nutrients.
Discs are 'osmotic' structures, which means that when under pressure it will loose fluid and when de-compressed (stretched) it will absorb fluid and with it the nutrients. So you need to find a way to de-compress the spine on a daily basis to make sure that those fluids are being replenished regularly for long term health.
Minimising Disc Degeneration
It is possible to minimise the degeneration process, by using a daily maintenance program, like you look after your teeth too. Obviously as we get older some level of degeneration is expected by it can be minimised by following this disc health maintenance plan.
In the next part I will look explain how you can minimise this lumbar degenerative disc disease...
Does the above sound familiar, if so what is your treatment?