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

by coachz on October 24, 2009

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

Contrary to what many in the medical community would have you believe, degenerative disc disease is not a disease at all, it is a condition. In fact, degenerative disc disease is a symptom of a breakdown in the overall health of the musculoskeletal system, generally. And, it is a symptom of deterioration in the health of the spine, specifically. Significantly, degenerative disc disease is an age-progressive phenomenon affecting millions worldwide, one of the primary causes of neck pain, back pain, and sciatica, primarily as we age.

Let me restate my main points:

• Degenerative disc disease is not a disease, it is a condition!

• Degenerative disc disease is an age-progressive phenomenon. Or, more accurately, it is an age-progressive constellation of phenomena.

• Degenerative disc disease is actually several phenomena, meaning there are several age-related factors working against us, and our spines, in concert as we age.

• Degenerative disc disease is age-progressive, behavioral, and preventable!

There are many factors that come into play, affecting the musculoskeletal system generally, and the spine specifically. Consequently, some of the factors affecting spine health contribute to degeneration of the spine generally and the intervertebral discs (IVDs or discs), specifically; and, there is a ripple effect as the breakdown in one system impacts and affects the next, and so on.

The degeneration of the spine leads to specific and often serious consequences. Some of the consequences associated with spinal degeneration include structural changes, as in the case of degenerative disc disease.

Some of the structural changes include:

• Bony spurs, also known as osteophytes. Osteophytes generally appear in direct response to stress or a traumatic event. The overall appearance of osteophytes,
and the associated bridging (a fusion or near-fusion of osteophytes across the intervertebral space), mimics the curvatures of the spine in frequency, with the secondary curvatures being more commonly affected. The secondary curvatures being those of the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions. The presence of osteophytes may be asymptomatic, meaning no pain or other symptoms are apparent, or they may lead to neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica, depending on the level and severity.

• Stenosis. Stenosis is a narrowing of various spinal openings, known as foramen, by the deposition of bone. Bony deposition may also be a consequence of ossification and/or calcification of connective tissue adjacent to the foramen. The intervertebral foramen allow the spinal nerve roots to exit the spinal canal. Pressure, stress and/or trauma on and of the nerve roots, either as a consequence of stenosis or as a result of bulging or herniated discs, will often lead to neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica, depending on the severity and the level of the spine affected.

• Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis may cause abnormal bone deposition, often leading to stenosis, osteophytosis (the creation of osteophytes), and neck pain, back pain, and sciatica. Osteoarthritis generally affects the secondary curvatures with greater frequency and intensity, particularly as we age. In our 60s, 70s, and 80s osteoarthritis may be every bit as common a factor in neck pain, back pain, and sciatica as degenerative disc disease. In fact, the often co-present in the same individual and are interrelated.

• Changes to the intervertebral discs. Changes to the IVDs occur as a consequence of the five factors mentioned above, all five contributing to degenerative disc disease, and other age-progressive phenomena, such as osteoarthritis and osteophytosis, also affected by the five factors. Changes in the intervertebral discs is one of the primary causes of neck pain, back pain, and sciatica.

• Connective tissue damage, including ossification and calcification. The reasons for a breakdown in the connective tissue associated with the spine can in large measure be traced back to the five factors. However, factors such as ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and several other conditions, diseases, and traumatic events may contribute to a breakdown of the connective tissue, particularly the spinal ligaments. The breakdown of the spinal ligaments is one of the principle factors contributing to degenerative disc disease and neck pain, back pain, and sciatica.

• The vertebrae (vertebral bodies). As stress transfers from the muscles to the connective tissue and on to the intervertebral discs, the stress and associated trauma adversely affects and impacts the vertebrae. When the vertebrae are adversely affected by stress and trauma meant to be handled by other components of the musculoskeletal system generally, and the spine specifically, the vertebrae undergo structural changes. Often when the vertebrae are stressed, osteophytes and osteophyte bridges occur. The osteophytes may be an adaptive response on the part of the spine to stress normally handled by the musculature, connective tissue, and intervertebral discs.

The structural changes listed above, incomplete as the list may be, provides a window into how interconnected and interrelated the spine is as a living system and how one component’s health directly affects the overall spine health.

As noted above and in part one, some of the factors contributing to a breakdown of spine health include:

• Excess weight and/or obesity

• Muscle weakness

• Muscle imbalance

• Inadequate diet and nutrition

• Dehydration

The five principle factors listed above, along with other contributory factors, negatively impact the musculoskeletal system and place stress on the spine generally, and its components individually. Consequently, stress on the spine often creates a breakdown in the overall health of the system and degeneration of the individual components, including the intervertebral discs or IVDs (or more simply, the discs), thus leading to a myriad of consequences…including degenerative disc disease and neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica.

As stated in part one, stress placed on the spine as we age may be traced, in part, back to excess weight and/or obesity. Excess weight sets in place a ripple effect throughout the spine. The excess weight often leads to exaggerated spinal curvatures. The exaggerated curvatures of the spine stress the musculature, particularly the core muscles of the lower back and abdomen. Muscle weakness leads to back strain and back sprains. Muscle weakness may also lead to muscle imbalance, although muscle imbalances may also occur in otherwise healthy individuals, something we will address in an upcoming article. Muscle weakness and muscle imbalance may also exacerbate neck pain, back pain, and sciatica.

Interestingly, muscle weakness and muscle imbalance may lead to exaggerated spinal curvatures. Exaggerated spinal curvatures may lead to muscle weakness and muscle imbalance. All four factors, excess weight and/or obesity, exaggerated spinal curvatures, muscle weakness, and muscle imbalance will lead to a breakdown in the connective tissue, particularly the spinal ligaments, and the intervertebral discs (IVDs), thus leading to degenerative disc disease. The vertebrae themselves are affected by the stress being transferred from muscle, to ligament, to IVD, to vertebral body, leading to osteophytosis and other bony changes.

All of the above related factors will result in neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica, depending on the level of the spine affected. In later life, the health of the spine becomes adversely affected and debilitating pain and disability may result. The entire process is often accelerated by decades when the five factors work in concert and against the musculoskeletal system and the spine, leading to early onset degenerative disc disease and neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica.

As the spinal system begins to break down, as demonstrated above, the impact is often across the board, meaning as one component breaks down they all do, one affecting the next. Degeneration of the intervertebral discs may and often does occur, thus leading to degenerative disc disease and neck pain, back pain, and sciatica.

In part three we will examine the final two factors, inadequate diet and nutrition, and inadequate hydration or dehydration. The final two factors to be examined are as important, if not more-so, depending on the individual. Diet, nutrition, and hydration may affect and impact not only the overall spine health but the body’s ability to heal and rebuild itself when stressed and during and after a traumatic event.

Ultimately, the five factors contribute to degenerative disc disease and neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica, they must be dealt with in the context of an entire system and not as singular entities if neck pain, back pain, and sciatica treatment is to be effective and pain relief lasting.

To your health!

John

Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr., The Bad Back Guy
216-712-6526
Skype: johnzajaros1
johnz@ultimatebadbackstrategies.com

PS, 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!

PPS, 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!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

jannie midde February 9, 2011 at 8:21 am

I just found out that I have a disintegrated disc, degenerative disc disease, several bulging disc, potrusions, now my back is really starting to hurt where the disc is gone. It started at work, I felt a pop when moving a chair up and down, then thwy did a mri and found out about this. The neuro surgeon I saw was rude and did not tell me anything I could do to improve this condition, I have to sit alot at my job and cant afford to loose it, I am a single 59 yr old female, with a bad financial situation. Can I ask you what my options are for improvement. Thanks for your response.

Janie February 9, 2011 at 8:23 am

could you remove the 2nd part of my name

randy clap November 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Hello I’m from Bluffton SC. Neck pain…is something that I still deal with. But I do notice a great deal of comfort when I am eating better and drinking water instead of soda like I do a lot. Also little things like having good posture while watching TV can help a ton.

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