Lumbar degenerative disc disease is the most common location for this universal spinal aging process to occur. Degenerative disc disease is a normal and expected part of getting older for most people. Spinal degeneration is found in almost every adult and is rarely responsible for causing severe or chronic pain.
DDD is a common scapegoat on which lower back pain is often blamed, even though the symptoms often do not make clinical sense when compared to the diagnosis. Furthermore, DDD is one of the conditions recently affected by diagnostic protocol changes offered by many large medical associations, since no evidence links it to the occurrence of back or neck pain.
This treatise examines lumbar disc deterioration and its actual symptomatic consequences.
The name itself, lumbar degenerative disc disease, conjures up visions of a disintegrating spine due to some malignant illness. The diagnostic nocebo effect is extremely powerful when presented to a patient. A simple change in terminology would make this condition much less scary sounding. Let’s take a look at 2 distinct case scenarios:
Patient A is diagnosed with lumbar degenerative disc disease. He is frightened and feels he is sick. There must be some horrible process working on destroying his spine. The doctor tells him that this condition is causing his pain and will probably worsen in the future. The patient immediately suffers a severe escalation of his symptoms until he becomes partially disabled by his back pain. Eventually, surgery is performed to stabilize the affected discs. The patient continues to have severe pain and is now permanently limited physically due to his surgery. In this case, the patient has been condemned by the power of the nocebo.
Patient B is diagnosed with idiopathic back pain. The doctor informs the patient that her discs have undergone normal changes associated with aging and there is no physical reason to justify her back ache complaint. The doctor continues telling the patient that there is nothing to fear and informs her that her pain will go away soon with some minor treatments. The doctor prescribes some back exercises even though she realizes these might be a placebo treatment, but can not do any harm. The patient performs the exercises as advised and experiences a complete recovery in a matter of weeks. In this case, the patient has been rescued by the power of a placebo.
Disc degeneration is almost universal at levels L4/L5 and L5/S1 by the age of 30. Severe degeneration does not guarantee physical symptoms will be present. Many patients have completely collapsed discs and experience no pain at all. They are not even aware of the condition. It is common for all the lumbar discs to experience moderate to severe degeneration throughout life, since the lower back is a location of abundant spinal movement.
Treatments for disc disease have some of the worst curative statistical results, since DDD is rarely the actual cause of the pain. Even if it was, conservative care will do nothing at all to alter the disc anatomy. Meanwhile, most surgical interventions usually seek to remove the disc, fuse the spine and make the patient far less capable from a functional viewpoint… and that is if all goes well with the operation, which it rarely does.
I have severe lumbar DDD. My entire lumbar spine is a mess, with one herniated disc (L4/L5), one ruptured disc (L5/S1) and DDD throughout all the lumbar levels. I developed the start of these conditions at 16 and they continued to worsen throughout my life. I always blamed my pain on these degenerative changes, since that is what the doctors diagnosed. It took me time to figure it all out, but at this stage, I place little credence in the theory of structural pain caused by any of my lumbar issues.
I still have DDD and in fact, my disc degeneration is more pronounced than ever. I do not worry about it, since there is nothing to fear. DDD is just a part of getting older. It might cause a dull ache every now and again, but is certainly not usually the cause of severe pain.
If you have been diagnosed with DDD as your primary source of suffering, I implore you to research the condition for yourself. I am sure that you too will discover that this completely normal condition has simply been used as a reason to keep you in extended and profitable treatment. Discover the truth and be free. Free from doctors, free from treatments, free from pain… Best of all, free to live life again with no restrictions or fear. You do not have to beat lumbar degenerative disc disease. You simply have to accept that it is inherent to the human condition.