Reversing Degenerative Disk Disease
By Dean Moyer
Author of Rebuild Your Back
Of all the conditions associated with lower back pain the most misunderstood is what doctors refer to as degenerative disk disease. You may be familiar with the name if you've been diagnosed with a bulging disk, a herniated disk, a ruptured disk, sciatica or a pinched nerve.
We've discussed the anatomy of the intervertebral disks in previous articles so we won't go into it again here. Instead, we're going to take a quick look at the main cause of degenerative disk disease, follow it through its various stages and then see if we can't come up with a practical solution.
Opening the Door to Degenerative Disk Disease
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, sitting is the worst thing you can do for your lower back. Even if you sit with good posture the pressure on the lower lumbar region is many times greater than it is for any other position. This downward force compresses the lower lumbar region of the spine and squeezes the moisture out of the disks just like squeezing the water out of a sponge. This is an open invitation to degenerative disk disease.
Constant sitting also means the disks in the lower back don't get moved and, therefore, don't get the normal flow of nutrients necessary for them to remain healthy and pliable. They don't get pumped up to their normal height. Without this fluid, they are no longer able to act as hydraulic shock absorbers. They dry out and start to deteriorate and the result is a disk that is flatter and thinner than it should be. This is the beginning of degenerative disk disease.
Bulging or Herniated Disks
If during this deterioration of the disk you happen to incur a back injury the muscles of the lower back may cramp up in an attempt to protect the spine. This could exert too much downward force on this badly weakened disk.
The nucleus - already cramped for space - will get squeezed like jelly in the middle of a jelly donut. And, since the walls of the disk are weak and no longer able to hold the nucleus in place, it could get pushed off center causing the disk to bulge like an old tire. Your doctor would refer to this as a herniated disk.
What Is A Ruptured Disk?
If the degenerative disk disease is really advanced the nucleus can push right through the wall of the disk and leak into the spinal canal. Now you're herniated disk has turned into a ruptured disk. And we're still not through all of the complications of degenerative disk disease.
Degenerative Disk Disease and Jammed Facet Joints
As the disk dries out and breaks down it will inevitably become flatter and thinner. With thinner disks the space between each vertebra will shrink and you will actually become shorter. This loss of height can cause jamming of the facet joints at the back of the spine and may also result in a pinched nerve as the bones no longer have adequate space between them for the nerves to pass through.
The Final Stage: Total Disintegration
Eventually these dried out damaged disks will totally disintegrate. When this happens the vertebrae in the lumbar region will begin grinding against one another. They may lock up and fuse together leaving the rest of the vertebrae to do all of the work.
This is very serious. Once the disk has disintegrated, there is no chance of reversing the situation. There is no way to restore a disk that is no longer there.
Reversing The Process
Keep in mind that all of this came about as a result of years spent sitting for long periods of time. The disks have dried out and broken down because they haven't been given the exercise they require.
So while degenerative disk disease is a very serious condition and not something to take lightly, the good news is that - since its cause is so simple - the solution is also quite simple. If caught soon enough you can reverse the process and restore your back or neck to a healthy functional state. All that is required is a good rebuilding program specifically designed to hydrate and nourish those dying disks.
NEXT: The Truth About Herniated Discs
We examine clinical studies proving that - if treated properly - herniated discs will heal and the bulges will totally disappear without the need for surgery.
About the Author
Rebuild Your Back
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Last updated: July 31, 2006