Chiropractic for degenerative disc disease is one of the very common reasons for spinal adjustments to be used. DDD is a chiropractor’s best friend, since it is virtually universal in the spine and can always be there as a source of blame for any otherwise idiopathic back pain concern.
I strongly warn patients to reconsider the validity of diagnostic theory when their severe unresponsive chronic pain has been linked exclusively to a typical disc desiccation process. In the majority of cases, this diagnosis may turn out to be incorrect.
Remember that DDD is normal and universal in the spine and is especially seen in the lower back and neck.
Degenerative disc disease is not a disease at all. It is a condition which affects all of us, mostly in the cervical and lumbar spinal regions, due to simple aging and physical activity. These spinal levels are exposed to constant bending and flexing and the discs tend to wear heavily, leading to a loss of size, height and mass and a general dehydration of the disc structure.
It should also be crystal clear that DDD affects almost all of us. It is normal, expected and universal, especially at L4/L5 and L5/S1. If a doctor tries to tell you that DDD is anything but normal, it may be an early indication of problems to come.
In most circumstances, blaming pain on DDD is like saying that your gray hair is sourcing your chronic back pain. It is illogical.
Disc degeneration continues throughout life, but the majority of diagnoses related to DDD take place between the ages of 26 and 58. These years are certainly not when the degeneration reaches its worst, but these are the ages of responsibility for most people.
In my experience, DDD-related back pain is often ischemic and related to emotional stress. If this was not so, the incidence of DDD pain would go up as we age, not down. Additionally since the condition is universal, we would all have identical back pain in identical areas, since the occurrence of DDD is strikingly similar in so many people.
Of course, there can also be other structural sources of pain which may not have been located by a chiropractor. This occurs in many people, especially when diagnostic testing is not completed throughout the spine.
For many patients, they only receive imaging in the painful region, when the actual source of pain may reside anywhere above this symptomatic region. Many low back pain sufferers, for example, actually demonstrate causative conditions in the thoracic, or even cervical, levels of the vertebral column.
Ok, let's get back back to focusing on chiropractic. I began treatment with my first chiropractor for DDD and scoliosis at age 16. I was clueless, as most patients are, and I never even thought to question how spinal adjustments would reverse disc degeneration. Now, it is a different story. I have learned much in the many years since this naiveté.
If you want to see a chiropractor sweat; ask them first what causes pain from DDD. They will tell you how the disc space decreases, pinching nerves and forming osteophytes from bone on bone contact. Now, ask them how the hell an adjustment will do anything to stop this process… and here comes the sweat.
DDD may create severe symptoms in extremely rare cases. However diagnosis is rampant for DDD-related pain, so something is amiss. I hate to be so blatantly honest, but in this case, it is justified.
The reason so many chiropractors treat DDD so actively is that they know it will never go away. They know that the evidence of DDD is visible on inexpensive x-ray films to convince patients treatment is needed. They know that the money is green and keeps on flowing. And they know that no one will question them.
Change that patterned expectation: Question them!
Be very wary of treating DDD, since research shows it to be an inherently innocent process and virtually all treatments fail anyway. Well, this is no surprise, since if the disc desiccation is not the actual source of pain, then how could the therapy ever work?