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Degenerative Disc Disease & Discogenic Pain

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MRI Research Study
Disc findings, including disc bulge, disc degeneration, and disc extrusion and protrusions, had significant associations with low back pain.

Dr W. Brinjikji, MD, Et al, Mayo Clinic 2015

What is a DDD?

Its wasn’t too long ago that degenerative discs were written off by medics and chiropractors alike as a normal variant and therefore not relevant when diagnosing the cause of pain.

Mechanically speaking when the disc dehydrates it doesn’t just sag or bulge, it also loses its ability to act as a shock absorber. This, in turn, shifts the weight distribution backwards off the ineffective disc and onto the facet joints which eventually become overloaded, inflamed and hypersensitive generating there own unique pain pattern.

Other than large Disc Herniations the rest of the IVD is often overlooked by health professionals dysfunctional, for its cascade effect on multiple pain generating structures.

Lately however, more and more research is pouring in, showing us a variety of ways in which dysfunctional discs can directly cause pain.

Importantly here at The DISC Chiropractors we have specific treatment protocols for both mild degenerative changes as well as more advanced case of degeneration known as Stenosis.

Current disc pain topics being researched include:

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Inflammatory Disc Disease

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Circumferential Tears

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Annular Tears

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Discogenic Pain

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Neurogenic Ingrowth

How common is a Degenerative DISC Disease?

How common is a Degenerative DISC Disease? In short…VERY!

In 2015 a ground-breaking study was conducted, which measured the prevalence of Disc Degeneration on people without pain and found 68% of 40 year olds had Disc Degeneration.

This was used by many medics to disregard DDD as having the potential for being a pain generator, (the same study revealed 40% of year olds had Disc Protrusions also without any current pain, the same logic wasn’t reapplied). This led the same research team to do a comparison study in which they found that the group with pain were almost twice as likely to have DDD if they had back pain.

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Fun Fact

Degenerative changes don’t necessarily hurt! 
They are susceptible to external factors that change the amount of inflammation and therefore pain, for example some people are badly affected by poor weather, conversely many find keeping mobile give great relief.


For the majority of people, the symptoms of DDD are just a part of the so-called normal ageing process, generalised back pain and stiffness which are all too readily excused as I’m just getting old. The general sagging and dehydration of their disc may not necessarily be painful.

However, when we have previous disc orientated injuries such as previous disc herniation or even more minor disc tears then the bodies interaction with the inevitable scar tissue can prove highly influential to pain patterns.

Most reactions to previous damage come under a general heading of being inflammatory, this means every time the body gets stressed it will react and its weak points get angry and inflamed.

Inflammatory disc disease is the chronic irritation of a previously damaged disc and can equate to a dull burning tightness across the low back and often can refer into the buttocks and hamstrings. Often if I have a patient telling me they have sciatica in both legs this is where my mind first wanders.

Likewise, discogenic pain… we now have come to realise that the outer portion of the disc is innervated and previous damage to this region can create hypersensitive nerves, which quite literally hurt every time they’re loaded and moved. Patients whose initial injury occurred many years before this current pain pattern should consider this as a highly likely possibility.

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stenosis showcase

Some common signs of DDD

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Difficulty walking

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Heavy muscle

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Sharp shooting pain

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Muscle weakness

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Numbness or tingling

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Bowel or Bladder Dysfunction

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Relieved by sitting

Degenerative disc disease treatment

What is beyond important when treating DDD is to try bring mobility to bring joint and therefore encourage blood flow and hydration through them.

One of the reason chiropractors have been so successful for over a century is that this is exactly what we specialise in. So, for many patients who are in the early stages of degenerative disc disease your local clinic should be fine.

However, some of the more nuanced cases which have advance pain syndromes such as inflammatory discs or discogenic pain standard manipulative care can actually be counterproductive and leave a patient in more pain than when they started.

This is why at The DISC Chiropractors we have spent years learning and understanding the differences between these cases and have advanced technology on hand which can make all the difference. Our Spinal Decompression Tables offer a gentle wave like traction flooding a damaged disc with the nutrients it needs for healing whilst depending on the level of degeneration can rehydrate dysfunctional discs. This is combined with instrument assisted adjusting which adds a conservative ability to mobilise joints without the need to mobilise twist or click the spine to achieve the required mobility.

We have a special 8 week program that can deliver lasting relief often in case where patients have unsuccessfully tried many clinics before.

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Contact Us

If you would like to find out what we could do to help your Degenerative Disc Disease, please click the icon below to book a thorough consultation to evaluate your case.