Non-Surgical Degenerative Disc Disease
We’ve treated many patients with degenerative disc disease. When they come to see us, they often all have the same story – they are in great pain, and are unable to do what they enjoy without suffering. Many of them have been living with the disease for years and it’s only been recent that they haven’t been able to go on without seeking help.
The reason they decided to visit ACN Wellness is they’re seeking a natural and holistic way to treat their degenerative disc disease. They’ve received their diagnosis and they probably already tried medications, which were ineffective or resulted in undesirable side effects.
If you’re suffering from degenerative disc disease, the best thing you can do is learn as much as you can about it and then how it can be treated naturally with alternative and nonsurgical remedies. Acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, and other alternative options. With this information, you can make a well-informed decision on the path you would like to take for pain relief.
What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease is when changes in your back, which are normal, cause pain in your spine. The disc in your spine are like shock absorbers and they are in between your vertebrae or bones along your spine. They help your spine remain flexible so you can bend and twist.
When people get older, they can sometimes start feeling pain in that area because the discs have suffered wear and tear. As they break down, they don’t work well. This happens to just about everyone, but not everyone will feel pain from it. For those who do feel pain, it can be highly disruptive to their life.
The Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
Spinal discs are made of a soft inner core and a tough wall on the outside of it. The following are the ways the discs change over time that can cause people pain.
When people are first born, their discs are mostly made up of water. As people grow older, their discs become dry. They also get thinner, flatter and weaker. With less cushion and padding between vertebrae, it can cause pain in your spine.
Another change that occurs to spinal discs is tiny tears start to form on the outer wall. The tears have nerves in them, and those exposed nerves cause pain. If the wall breaks down, the soft core of the disc can push through the cracks. This can cause a bulge or slip, and that can be really painful.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
- Lower back
- Upper thighs
The pain can increase in severity over time and can intensify when you sit. Some people feel worse when they bend, lift or twist. Moving, walk, changing position or lying down can lessen the pain.
Some people experience numbness and tingling in the arms and legs. Leg muscles can become weak as well as the disease progresses.
Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease
When you see the doctor for degenerative disc disease, he will look over your medical history and talk to you about your symptoms. He will likely ask you the following questions:
- When did your pain start?
- What part of your spine hurts?
- Has the pain spread to other parts of your body?
- Is there a family history of this type of pain?
- Have you ever has a spine injury?
The doctor may ask you to bend, walk, or perform other movements to see what causes pain and relives it. Don’t be afraid to speak up when telling him about the pain. It’s important that he knows exactly how you’re feeling because he can’t see the pain – he can only hear or see how you react to the movement.
For confirmation of the diagnosis, the doctor may order a x-ray or MRI. These tests can check for bone or nerve damage near the spine.
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment
The goal of treatment for degenerative disc disease is to reduce or eliminate the pain and stop further damage from occurring. A treatment plan will be created for you and as you move through it, the doctor will make changes to it.
While there are medications and surgeries to treat degenerative disc disease, there are also complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) options. Integrative health professionals, such as Dr. Le and Jing Cao, can help you relieve the pain of this disease with holistic practices and therapies. These therapies include traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, and massage.
Acupuncture was developed in China over 2500 years ago. The practice involves using very thin needles strategically placed into the body at specific points. Practitioners believe the body has points that needles can touch that release the flow of energy called Qi.
There’s no reason to be concerned about the needles because they are as thin as a strand of hair. Most people do not feel any discomfort. Multiple needles are inserted during one session and they remain inserts for up to 40 minutes. During this time, it is believed the body releases neurochemicals (endorphins and serotonin) that can help the healing process.
Herbal remedies are another way you can achieve pain relief. Speak to your doctor whenever you are considering using a herbal remedy, as the side effects may interfere with prescription medications.
Possible herbal remedies for degenerative disc disease include:
This comes from Southern Africa. It has been used for centuries to treat:
- Gastrointestinal Problems
It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects, so it’s effective in treating the inflammation that is often part of the disease.
This herbal remedy is useful for age-related wear and tear conditions of the spine. It can also treat depression, which is good news because many people who suffer with chronic pain also deal with depression.
White Willow Bark
Aspirin is made from white willow bark. This herb can reduce pain and inflammation in the body, which is why it is effective in treating degenerative disc disease.
Weak ligaments and tendons are common in people with degenerative disc disease. As the disease progresses and the spine becomes weak, it puts a lot of pressure on the ligaments and tendons. Over time, that pressure causes the ligaments and tendons to become weak as well.
Prolotherapy involves injecting a natural substance into the area where the pain is the greatest. A local anesthetic may be used to help minimize discomfort from the injection. The ingredients in the solution may include:
- Lidocaine or Procaine
Any discomfort felt usually passes quickly and can be prevented or reduced with Tylenol.
Prolotherapy stimulates the growth of new ligaments and tendon issues. The therapy involves injecting an irritant solution, which sparks the body’s healing process. This injection goes right into the ligaments and tendons and several sessions are needed for it to be effective.
Chiropractic care is a treatment option for degenerative disc disease. The chiropractor can improve joint mechanics by improving spinal motion, reducing inflammation and improving the function of the intervertebral discs.
Spinal manipulation is the most common chiropractic treatment for degenerative disc disease. By identifying restricted joints or those that show abnormal motion, the chiropractor will restore movement to the joints with a thrusting technique.
Flexion-distraction technique is another chiropractic technique that involves a gentle, non-thrusting motion. This is mostly used to treat herniated discs and spinal stenosis.
Instrument-assisted manipulation is performed by using a hand-held instrument. The chiropractor will manipulate the spine with a gentle thrusting motion.
Other forms of chiropractic treatment for DDD include:
- Trigger Point Therapy
- Manual Joint Stretching
- Therapeutic Massage
- Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Therapy
To reduce inflammation often seen with degenerative disc disease, a chiropractor may use interferential electrical stimulation. This stimulation uses a low-frequency electrical current to reduce inflammation in the muscles.
An ultrasound can be used to reduce muscle spasms and stiffness. The sound waves travel deep into the muscle tissues and heat helps improve blood circulation.
Physical therapy treats degenerative disc disease in a few different ways:
- Strengthens the spine
- Reduces inflammation
- Relieves pain
- Improves flexibility
These benefits come from a wide range of treatments, such as:
- Deep Tissue Massage
- Hold and Cold Therapies
- Spinal Traction
Spinal traction is the practice of stretching the back, which can loosen tight muscles and compressed nerves. Physical therapists do this with their hands or with special equipment.
The number of sessions needed to achieve relief depends on many factors, such as the severity of the condition and how quickly the body responds to the exercises and therapies.
Relieve the Pain of Degenerative Disc Disease at ACN Wellness
ACN Wellness is a functional medical office that uses a holistic approach to patient care. Dr. Le and Jing Cao have many years of experience treating people with degenerative disc disease, so they can live their lives pain-free.
If you’re suffering from this condition, contact ACN Wellness today at 703-729-5600 for an appointment at the Leesburg or Vienna office.