Chiropractic Knowledge / Exploring Degenerative Disc Disease Cascade

Understanding the “Cascade Effect” of Degenerating Disc Disease

Last updated: December 21, 2023 | Author: Dr. Samantha Coleman


As we age, we expect parts of our body to break down and stop functioning in the same ways they used to. Wear and tear can make it harder for the body to repair itself and may cause pain in all kinds of areas – but particularly the back.

The spine is one of the most important parts of the body, but it is also one of the most likely to degenerate over time. Degenerative disc disease, the process of the spinal discs breaking down, happens to everyone and may lead to a number of problems, including back pain and immobility.

The way this process works follows a sort of cause-and-effect chain, or cascade, toward degeneration.

At ChiroSolutions Center in Virginia Beach, VA, our spinal professionals are dedicated to making our patients’ lives easier by educating them about the spine and finding ways to potentially relieve their pain or discomfort from degenerative disc disease and other spinal problems.

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Understanding spinal discs

In between the bones of your spine sit vertebral discs – strong, yet firm “shock absorbers” made of a jelly-like fluid surrounded by a tough, outer wall.

The outer layer, called the annulus fibrosis, contains nerves, while the interior contains a liquid with anti-inflammatory properties.

These discs start out quite soft and spongey, being majorly composed of water.

Understanding spinal discs

Over time, discs become dehydrated and can develop tears. This degeneration is normal and occurs due to wear and tear as we age.

Discs do not get the same type of blood supply as other tissues, like muscles, do. Therefore, they are not supplied with the nutrients and oxygen they need to repair themselves.

However, not all discs degenerate in the same ways – some degenerate much faster or slower, and some cause pain while others are not painful at all.

Although there is not an exact reasoning for the disparity in how discs degenerate, experts generally agree that they follow a “cascading effect” of degeneration, which occurs over the course of a person’s life.

The disc degeneration cascade

Vertebral discs can break down for a number of reasons, including genetics, aging, poor health, and injury.

Because they can’t easily repair themselves, their breakdown “cascades” and may begin to affect other areas of the spine, including the vertebrae and nerves.

Generally, disc degeneration cascades in the following steps:

  • Acute back pain caused by disc degeneration may cause dysfunction in the vertebral discs and surrounding tissues.
  • The particular injured vertebral disc will become unstable and stay that way for a long period of time. Back pain may come and go, caused by this instability. The disc may continue to degenerate, but back pain is unlikely to worsen.
  • Eventually, the body is able to re-stabilize the degenerated segment over time, resulting in less back pain.

Through this theory, experts believe that prompt pain management may help back pain patients through the worst of their pain until the disc eventually stiffens and inflammatory proteins are no longer active.

Numerous treatment methods, including chiropractic care, may be useful in alleviating pain caused by degenerative disc disease until re-stabilization occurs.

If you’re experiencing back pain caused by aging, contact ChiroSolutions Center in Virginia Beach, VA.

The disc degeneration cascade

Using Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP), a holistic and well-research approach to patient wellness, our team may be able to provide you comfort and stability so you can move freely.

Chiropractic BioPhysics, or CBP, is one of the most scientific, researched, and results-oriented corrective care techniques. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health, eliminating nerve interference and addressing the source of pain, fatigue, and disease. As with all Chiropractic Care, CBP is gentle, painless, and non-invasive.

Dr Samantha Coleman Chiropractor

She is the only Advanced Certified CBP Chiropractor in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

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