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What is Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)?

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

There are about 23 discs in the spine. The discs are the shock absorbers of the frame & allow for spinal column movement. These discs make up 25-34% of the total spinal column’s length. Interestingly, the intervertebral discs have no blood supply. The nutrients they require is absorbed from circulating blood by means of osmosis & joint movement.

Over time, due to injury, repetitive stress, lack of motion & frankly, for reasons not fully understood, discs wear out. These degenerative changes take place in 4 stages.

Stage 1 - The 1st stage often goes unnoticed. A decrease in the natural curvature of the spine may indicate the beginning of degenerative disc disease. There is often no pain; however, normal movement is altered, leading to extra pressure on the spine.

Stage 2 - Disc degeneration becomes apparent in the second stage. Discs become thinner & bone spurs appear. The spine may change shape & the spinal canal may become narrower. Pain, discomfort & decreased motion become noticeable.

Stage 3 – This stage is marked by postural & spinal curvature changes, pain & loss of mobility increase. Nerve pressure & damage may occur, along with scar tissue formation. Discs continue to thin, leading to increased bone spur formation & spinal narrowing.

Stage 4 - The last stage is the most severe & is typically considered irreversible. Discs are at their thinnest or absent. There is limited spinal flexibility & there are often high levels of pain. Nerve damage may be pronounced.

Spinal fusion is the most common surgical procedure used for degenerative disc pain. Recently, artificial disc replacement has become more widely used as devices and surgical methods have improved.

Nonsurgical treatments are typically suggested for at least 6-12 wks before surgery is considered. However, if you have been told you require Spinal Fusion, you owe it to yourself to learn more about non-surgical spinal decompression. Although we cannot help everyone, we have an enviable history of success.

Remember, you can always have an operation, but you cannot undo an operation. We are the place to start.

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