Degenerative Disc Disease and Neck Pain, Back Pain, and Sciatica Treatment and Relief: Part I

by coachz on October 17, 2009

Contrary to popular belief, while one of the primary causes of neck pain, back pain, and sciatica, primarily as we age, degenerative disc disease is not a disease, it is a condition. Degenerative disc disease is an age-progressive phenomenon. It’s actually several phenomena, meaning there are several age-related factors working against us, and our spines, all at once as we age!

Degenerative Disc Disease is Age-Progressive, Behavioral, and Preventable!

Degenerative Disc Disease: Excess Weight and/or Obesity

In fact, degenerative disc disease is a natural, albeit somewhat preventable, age-progressive phenomenon that occurs as we age and our muscles, connective tissue, intervertebral discs (IVDs), and vertebrae weaken. As we age, we tend to put on and carry excess weight, some people becoming obese. The added weight places additional stress on the curvatures of the spine, particularly in the cervical (neck pain) and lumbar (lower back pain) regions. However, the thoracic and sacral regions will also experience stress, creating the related upper and middle back pain, as well as lower back pain and even sacroiliac joint dysfunction (a somewhat related condition). Overall, excess weight is the biggest single contributor to back pain of any kind, and particularly lower back pain and sciatica. As we gain weight, and as the various curvatures experience greater stress, the muscles, connective tissue (especially the ligaments), the intervertebral discs, and the vertebrae have to do more work and the once healthy back will begin to become stressed, its balance no longer sustainable, and as a result we experience neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica…depending on the level most affected.

Degenerative Disc Disease: Muscle Weakness

As we gain weight, and as the curvatures of the spine are adversely affected as a result of additional weight, the muscles weaken, particularly the core muscles of the spine and abdomen. The abdominal and back muscles weaken as a result of the additional strain placed upon them and because of the sedentary lifestyle usually associated with weight gain…and aging. The weakened musculature, associated with inactivity, lack of exercise, and weight gain, will create a shift in the stress handling mechanisms of the spine, thus transferring much of the work usually done by the muscles of the spine and abdomen to the ligaments, intervertebral discs (IVDs), and the vertebrae. Consequently, as a result of the added weight and/or obesity, combined with the loss of muscle tone and strength, the stress transfers and the spine is more vulnerable to insult and injury, as well as “normal” age-progressive phenomena, such as degenerative disc disease.

Degenerative Disc Disease: The Spinal System and Neck Pain, Back Pain, and Sciatica

As you can no doubt see by now, the entire system in interconnected, one component dependent upon the next and the overall health of the spine affected by a breakdown at any one level (curvature) or by one component (muscles, connective tissue, IVDs or vertebrae). A breakdown at any point makes the entire system more vulnerable to injury or degeneration…with the resulting neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica.

Degenerative Disc Disease and Connective Tissue: The Ligaments

The next spinal component at risk is the connective tissue, the tendons and ligaments, and particularly the ligaments of the spine. The two major ligaments, and there are far too many to cover all of them in this article (e.g., the anterior costotransverse ligaments and the interarticular ligaments, to name just two more of many), are the anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments. The anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments are very important and are central to the overall health of the spine for a number of reasons. The ligaments provide stabilization and strength along the entire length of the spine. As their name implies, they run longitudinally from the cervical region down the entire length of the spine to the sacrum and connect one vertebral body to the next via the intevertebral discs. The makeup of the anterior and posterior ligaments are somewhat different; and, they have a complex structure and a variety of functions. However, they are crucial to the overall health of the back and, when they are stressed, either as a result of a single event or as the result of excess weight, muscle weakness or muscle imbalance, the entire system is at risk. A loss of strength and/or stabilization may have an immediate and far reaching impact on the spine, resulting in neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica.

Degenerative Disc Disease and Intervertebral Discs: IVDs and Neck Pain, Back Pain, and Sciatica

The intervertebral discs, IVDs, or simply discs are the next major component in the spinal system affecting and affected by a breakdown in the system, either as a consequence of aging generally or excess weight, muscle weakness, muscle imbalance, connective tissue issues and stress (including various stress-related injuries, trauma, ossification and calcification), specifically. The intervertebral discs are made up of approximately 80 to 85 percent water. The IVDs are also the spine’s shock absorbers, also responsible, along with the anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments mentioned above, for stabilization and strength. The IVDs are made up of two parts, the annulous fibrosus and the nucleus pulposus, a cartilaginous outer ring system and a center gel-like substance. The IVDs have been referred to as a kind of jelly donut, with the gel in the middle being held in place by the outer cartilage and responsible for much of the impact absorption. They are also responsible for the height of the spine, maintaining a set distance between vertebrae, which allows the spinal nerves to leave the spinal canal without injury or stress. It is the intervertebral disc, its height, resilience, and strength, all related to disc health, that directly impacts and affects the presence and level of neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica.

Degenerative Disc Disease: A Constellation of Behavioral Factors

Significantly, as the system begins to break down, as described above, or as the result of a single stress-related injury, the disc may undergo significant change. The changes in the disc over time, as a result of aging combined with excess weight, muscle weakness, muscle imbalance, loss of connective tissue strength and stability, and two additional factors, inadequate diet and nutrition, and inadequate hydration or dehydration may cause the intervertebral discs to break down, resulting in neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica. The combination of aging and the constellation of other contributory factors leads to what is commonly called a disease, in this case degenerative disc disease. Interestingly, degenerative disc disease is not a disease but a combination of consequences, all but one traced back to behavior.

The age-progressive nature of degenerative disc disease is related to the following:

1. As we age, we generally gain weight, some of us becoming obese.
2. As we age, and we generally gain weight, some of us becoming obese, and our muscles weaken due to inactivity and/or a sedentary lifestyle.
3. As we age, and we generally gain weight…and our muscles weaken due to inactivity…the connective tissue breaks down as our muscles can no longer do the job alone and thus the stress is transferred to the connective tissue.
4. As we age, and we generally gain weight…and our muscles weaken due to inactivity…the connective tissue breaks down as our muscles can no longer do the job alone…stress is transferred to the connective tissue…the stress is then transferred to the intervertebral discs which break down due to the stress from the above mentioned factors and due to muscle imbalance, inadequate diet and nutrition, and inadequate hydration and/or dehydration.

Interestingly, I am certain I could probably stretch the above 4 points out to between 10 and 12, perhaps even more, before even starting to stretch things. But I hope you get the overall message here, that degenerative disc disease, while associated with aging, is actually linked to a constellation of behaviors; and, it is the behaviors over time that lead to the degeneration of the IVDs and not a disease process. The degeneration of the discs over time results in the entire system being more susceptible to insult and injury…and not a disease process but a behavioral constellation of factors.

Does degenerative disc disease lead to neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica?

Certainly!

Degenerative Disc Disease and Neck Pain, Back Pain, and Sciatica: The Prognosis?

Neck Pain, Back Pain, and Sciatica Treatment and Relief!

However, the impact of the process we call a disease can be overcome to a great extent, depending of course on how much damage has been done prior to starting the right sort of treatment strategy; and, it can certainly be slowed down, if not halted entirely, through behavior modification combined with an intelligent, overall program of diet, exercise, and treatment. If applied properly, a neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica relief and treatment strategy can offset, alleviate, and in many cases even eliminate many of the consequences of degenerative disc disease.

In the second part of this article we will explore the other factors responsible for degenerative disc disease and some of the neck pain, back pain, and sciatica relief and treatment strategies many have used to find real and lasting pain relief.

Do you want to start right away? Are you ready to be rid of your neck pain, back pain or sciatica? Do you want to find real and lasting neck pain, back pain, and sciatica relief? Just click this link and start today!

Or go to my other neck pain, back pain, and sciatica blog and follow us, join us, as we create a new future in time for the New year…one without pain, one with real and lasting pain relief!

Have questions, comments, feedback? Leave it here or contact me directly!

John

Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr., The Bad Back Guy
216-712-6526 (Home/Business)
866-835-2913 (Toll Free)
Skype: johnzajaros1
johnz@ultimatebadbackstrategies.com

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Reno Chiropractor October 21, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Good information. I am a chiropractor in Reno, Nevada and DDD/DJD are by far the most common conditions I see in my practice. The thought that this degenerative process is only based on age, like many of the M.D.’s state, is ludicrous. Posture, spinal curvatures, muscle tone, previous trauma, and body weight are all important factors to consider when assessing someones chances of heading down the degenerative joint disease road, not just age.

coachz October 22, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Thank you Dr. Quigley!

I think it comes from my anthropological background, looking at things in their entirety rather than as a single system. The spine is a complex system and all the variables come into play. You are absolutely correct, considering causation as a consequence of age alone is simply ludicrous, yet that is what many medical practitioners do. I hope Part II brings this home even more.

Thank you for your comment and I look forward to hearing from you again in the future.

John

Chris November 7, 2010 at 8:49 am

HI!

This site is very helpful and things you said its very knowledgeable and helpful for the viewers.you are helping
patients that suffer with neck pain,we are working in the same area and helping people get relief from back pain. I look forward to come back and see me information.

Thanks very much for such a great information.

Daniel gomez May 12, 2012 at 12:20 am

i have degenerative of the lumbar and i was wondering is it bad to gain muscle wait.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: