TOPIC – DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
RC: Hello everyone, this is Liz Harvey coming to you from our razorcast™ studios in New York City where we are dedicated to bringing you cutting edge interviews from many of the leading industry professionals across the United States.
In today’s episode, we are speaking with Dr. Matthew Phinney. Dr. Phinney is the founder of The Chiropractor Doctors in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he is committed to improving the health and vitality of his community through chiropractic and wellness care. He is originally from Toronto Canada and he graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport Iowa. Dr. Matthew Phinney is widely considered to be one of the top Chiropractors specializing in holistic and alternative health in the country and he is also a contributing member of our national network of industry professionals.
Today we are going to talk about a very important topic: Degenerative Disc Disease – What Does It Mean?
RC: Hi Dr. Phinney, how are you today?
Dr. Matthew Phinney: Hey Liz, doing great. Great to hear from you.
RC: Great, well thanks for joining us.
Question 1: Is degenerative disc disease a real disease or just a term that is used?
RC: So my first question, is degenerative disc disease a real disease or just a term that is used?
Dr. Matthew Phinney: Degenerative disc disease is actually a misnomer- it’s not an actual disease but it’s a term used to describe like thinning or wearing of the discs or the joints. It could be in the spine, it could be in the hips, could be in the knees but it’s a thinning down or wearing of the cartilage, discs, joints in the body.
Question 2: What segment of the population is most at risk for suffering from this?
RC: I read that there are more than 3 million cases of degenerative disc disease reported in the US every year. What segment of the population is most at risk for suffering from this?
Dr. Matthew Phinney: Typically the highest at risk population would be people that are getting older, older in their years. People that have had some sort of history with contact sports – football players, hockey players, basketball players – people that have taken some bumps and bruises. Also people that have had some sort of history of a serious trauma or accident whether it be a car accident, even minor fender bender. Another sort of category are people that have a family history of it. If their mother had it or their father had it or they had a grandmother that suffered from degenerative disc disease. These are typically the categories or segments of the population most at risk of developing this as they age.
Question 3: Besides the aging process, what are some other common causes for degenerative disc disease?
RC: Alright so you kind of touched on this a little but besides the aging process, what are some other common causes for degenerative disc disease?
Dr. Matthew Phinney: So often times one of the major causes is alignment issues. And alignment issues can stem from any of the things that I touched on earlier such as falls, accidents, injuries, sports injuries, brother/sister pushing you down the stairs when you’re six years old. What can happen is it can cause the joints of the body to shift or twist out of alignment and it’s similar to like a car that gets into a collision and then the front end gets popped out of alignment. If you keep driving around on that car, the tires are going to start to wear, start to go bald and then eventually if you turn too sharp one day, you can have a blowout.
Well the same thing or the same process can take place in the body. If the hard frame of the spine is out of alignment, it’s going to wear up or chew up the soft discs, joints and cartilage which causes degenerative disc disease or degenerative joint disease.
Question 4: Besides experiencing some numbness and back or neck pain, how else would someone know they have a real problem?
RC: Let’s talk about the symptoms people should look out for. Besides experiencing some numbness and back or neck pain, how else would someone know that they have a real problem?
Dr. Matthew Phinney: Great question. So depending on where the discs and the joints are breaking down and wearing out, different symptoms and conditions often over time will develop – so the lower back/hip stuff. Often times, we’ll see hip pain or knee pain. Sometimes we’ll see circulation issues in the legs, swelling in the ankles, cold feet, burning feet, itching feet, weakness in the legs, occasionally leg cramps. Middle back could be like stomach or digestive stuff, cramping, bloating, nervous stomach, indigestion. Upper back/neck – often times people with those nerves neurologically they go into the shoulders, elbows, wrists. They can have shoulder issues, elbow issues, wrist issues, numbness/tingling in the hands. A lot of people have carpel tunnel syndrome and so that can come from breakdown of the discs at the base of the neck. We call that like a double crush syndrome. Headaches, sinus issues, allergies, these are all symptoms/signs that something in your body is not working properly and often times it’s the result of breakdown of those discs interfering or putting pressure on the nerves or nervous system.
Question 5: How is degenerative disc disease officially diagnosed? And what are the most effective chiropractic methods used to help treat it?
RC: How is degenerative disc disease officially diagnosed? And what are the most effective chiropractic methods used to help treat it?
Dr. Matthew Phinney: So in order to see and actually know whether or not your discs are breaking down, the easiest and the most reliable and really the best way to determine whether or not that’s happening is to take radiographs/films/x-rays. So one of the things we look at is we’ll look at and actually see disc heights and we’ll compare them relative to each other. Because you know there’s just going to be normal wear and tear with age but when we see some discs breaking down at a rate much faster than others, often times it’s a result of one of the alignment issues causing the discs and joints to break down. So we always do motion study films so we can see not only how they line up but if there is any disc degeneration present and also how those specific areas are functioning/moving, what’s working and what’s not.
So as far as treatment goes, the way that discs stay healthy and hydrated is through that movement. So if someone is going to fix a problem for you, they better know where the problems are first and the only way to determine whether or not there is a problem or not that can be fixed is actually to take those motion study films so you can see whether not only can you realign things but how you can get it functioning again. So the disc can actually start to replenish and re-hydrate the way that they are supposed to.
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This article was reviewed and approved by Dr. Matthew Phinney.