Degenerative Disc Disease of the Neck
We offer a highly effective approach to the treatment of degenerative disc disease DJD, by identifying and then removing dysfunctions from within the multiple structures involved with the condition including muscles, ligaments, tendons and lymph nodes.
It is a multi-faceted approach bringing rapid relief to the discs of the spine by removing the extreme forces exerted on them. We utilize the professional use of shockwave therapy to break apart the twisted and tangled myofascial adhesions so common to dysfunctional muscles and ligaments in those with disc disease. Neuromuscular therapy is a unique type of manual therapy which is used to both decrease the nerve impulses to these hyperactive muscles and ligaments, and to stretch out the dysfunctional fibres once released by application of shockwaves. It is an amazingly effective approach proven over the years to so many of our clients.
Degenerative disc disease (DDD or DJD) is a condition where the discs of the spine begin to degenerate or become thin and weak. It is seen primarily in the neck and low back but can occur anywhere in the spine.
Degenerative disc disease is a condition where the discs of the spine begin to weaken and slowly lose their ability to provide shock absorption and keep the bones of the spine (vertebrae) from touching each other. You may be surprised to learn that it can happen at any age, not just in older people. We are seeing an increase in young people who have begun the degenerative process, some as young as 28 years old.
The following symptoms are intended to offer a warning and do not mean you have the disease. If you ignore the warning signs to degenerative disc disease, you may eventually develop the disease.
- Intermittent incidences of Sciatica
- Chronic low back pain
- Chronic neck pain/headaches
- Localized back pain that lasts for weeks or months, lets up and re-occurs once again in a cycle
- Sensations of numbness, pins and needles, burning line of fire down arms and/or legs
- Pelvic pain
- Chronic hip pain and/or bursitis
- Occasional pain in the groin, hip, knee and/or foot
The most common cause for Disc Degeneration is exposure to constant abnormal forces on the discs that they were not designed to withstand.
Abnormal forces include:
- Lifting objects heavier than you are strong enough to lift
- Lifting items while rotating or bending the spine
- Short leg
- Worn out knee or hip resulting in an abnormal gait (walk)
- Abnormal position of the pelvis
- Wearing improper, unsupportive footwear
- Previous fractures of the pelvis (ilium), thigh (femur), knee, shin (tibia/fibula), and/or bones of the foot.
- Hip/knee joint replacement surgery
- Short leg
- Pelvis/Leg trauma that required surgery to install pins, plates, screws and/or metal rods
- Severe knee and/or ankle sprains
- Born with a deformity of any portion of the leg and/or foot
- Wearing heavy tool belts, as with police, electricians, carpenters
- Heavy equipment operators, long-haul truck drivers, farmers and any other occupation that requires sitting with vibrational forces on the body
- Standing for work with improper postural support and mechanics
- Existing arthritis in hips, knees, ankles and/or feet
- Lifting heavy objects while bent over.
- Mechanics and Millwrights whose constant bending and lifting in abnormal postures.
- Rotational and bending forces place extreme pressure on discs which can damage them
In Depth: What Is Really Happening?
Discs are extremely tough and durable sponges which separate each vertebra in the spinal column. Their job is to provide shock absorption to the vertebra (bones) of the spine, and to resist compressive forces when we carry heavy objects.
Discs are not capable of resisting extreme forces when we rotate our upper body or bend over forward or sideways.
When we are young, our discs are comprised of approximately 88% water with an extremely tough connective tissue interior. The outer wall of a disc is a 3-layer criss-cross of the strongest connective tissue fibres in the body. Discs are designed to withstand enormous amounts of repetitive, prolonged compressive forces, but not constant twisting and bending
The Four Stages of Degenerative Disc Disease:
Disc Bulging: Stage 1
The strength of any disc comes from its ability to contain the watery-filled contents within its fibrous wall from coming out. Just like a hydraulic cylinder on a backhoe whose fluid is compressed but does not leak, a disc can similarly withstand tremendous forces in the direction of compression. However, discs can’t withstand excessive forces in the direction of rotation or bending. After repeated incidences of abnormal pressures, the disc wall fibres will begin to weaken and stretch, at the site where these pressures are most extreme, allowing the watery inside to begin pushing outward creating a disc bulge. Over time, if more of the same forces are placed on this location of the disc before they fully heal, the bulging will increase, affecting more disc wall fibres.
Bulges will continue to grow in size if the forces that have been acting on them are not removed. Eventually, a bulge can get so large that it begins producing inflammation in the region, resulting in sciatica. For a detailed look at sciatica, visit the condition in this section.
Disc Protrusion: Stage 2
In this second stage of disc degeneration, disc protrusion implies that one or 2 of the 3 layers comprising the disc wall has now torn, due to the extreme, repetitive forces on it. The bulge has become much weaker and less capable of holding back the watery gel-like substance inside from leaking out. Inflammation is now being produced in the region and there is pain. Pain is now being experienced into the shoulder, upper back, upper arm, elbow and/or hand. Pins/needles or total sensations of numbness are also being felt in the arm, hand and/or fingers.
If the excessive forces are removed at this point, the disc will heal. If they are not, then the disc degeneration will progress to the next stage.
Disc Proliferation: Stage 3
In this third stage of disc degeneration, all 3 layers of the disc wall have had tearing of their fibres. Some of the watery gel-like substance inside may begin leaking out in small amounts. Symptoms will definitely be experienced at this stage of degeneration…
Severe and profound pain and numbness will be experienced anywhere in the arm, chest, upper back, and neck itself.
Pain medication may now be required to control the debilitating effects. Life is not much fun now and a person may be limited in their daily activities and functions. It’s still not too late for therapy to be administered.
Sequestration: Stage 4
In this fourth and final stage of disc degeneration, the fibres of the disc wall have now completely failed, at the site of the original disc bulge, and the gel-like interior is oozing out of the disc’s interior. This is an extremely serious situation for many reasons.
Inflammation will be abundant placing direct pressure on all of the soft tissue and nerves in the region. Pain will be extensive and unrelenting.
The height of the disc will begin shrinking due to the loss of internal fluid.
If a sufficient amount of disc wall fibres are damaged, the integrity of the disc may be in jeopardy. The term “Vacuum effect” means that the disc has failed and no longer provides any function to the vertebra above or below it. You are now bone on bone!
You may develop neck arthritis within a few years as a result of stage 3 or 4 disc degenerative process.
Arthritis of the spine can be summarized as a build-up of calcium along the lines of force initiated by the disc disease process.
It is well known in medicine that after years of excessive unrelenting forces on a joint, calcium will be deposited as the bodies way of providing reinforcements. Over time this calcium begins interfering with normal joint function, causes pain due to the space it occupies near the soft tissues in the region and may result in pain due to the constant inflammation due to its presence. Once this process has begun, it can’t be halted. It can be controlled to some degree limiting its effect on the region.
This segment of the spine can no longer bend in any direction which causes extreme pressure on the disc above and below it. Over the years, they will eventually meet the same fate and the process continues until the entire spine has been affected.
How Do We Protect Our Spine?
Back pain, disc degeneration, spinal arthritis, and Sciatica are all completely preventable
Keep your body weight as close to normal, and set a high limit which you never cross.
Exercise your abdominal core muscles and maintain core strength throughout your life.
If you weight train, use lower weights with higher repetitions. Developing endurance is far more important than developing strength.
Never bend over with a rounded spine and pick up a heavy object. Bend your knees!
If your job requires you to bend, do so with a straight back and take stretching breaks. Never bend over for hours at a time like those who lay flooring, gardeners and other such jobs.
Avoid careers which place enormous stress on your back.
Never jump off of high objects or engage in jumping activities such as exercise routines.
See therapists who specialize in spinal therapy to have a full biomechanical assessment done. We can identify and resolve the mechanisms responsible for disc disease.
If you require any additional information about our treatment, please contact us.