The disk is the cartilage pad between each vertebra. It acts as a cushion or shock absorber and as a spacer to allow room for the spinal nerves to exit on each side of the spine. As we age our disks begin to wear out. This disk degeneration is also known as spinal arthritis.
To an extent, this is a normal result of walking upright against gravity all of our lives. We can see this wear-and-tear easily on an X-ray, the disk space gets progressively thinner and “spurs” or osteophytes of bone form around the margins of the vertebra. Mild changes are common on X-rays of people over the age of 50. Excessive disk degeneration for a person’s age is abnormal. This may be due to old injuries, spinal curvatures, years of heavy work, genetic factors or other causes. Disk degeneration alone may cause no symptoms other than stiffness but it represents an area of the spine that is less resilient and more prone to become painful when stressed or injured.
Patients with disk degeneration and back or neck pain are commonly treated in the office with a high degree of success. While disk changes are not reversible the application of gentle manipulation, exercise and nutritional support can often reduce pain. Improved joint movement can help a patient regain mobility with less reliance on pain-killing medication. Providing patients with a natural means of pain relief is especially important given the current concern for the safety of pain medications and the overuse of Opioid meds.