Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease is something I saw on the x-rays of 5 out of 10 of my patients over 40 years old!

Don’t be surprised that you have it. If you’re over 40 and your neck hurts, you probably have some amount of cervical degeneration.

You may be surprised to hear that this can happen at such a young age, but I have seen cervical degenerative disc disease on the x-rays of 35-55 year olds hundreds of times. And of course if you are older than 55 you almost certainly have some cervical disc degeneration visible on x-ray.

Why is this important to you? The reason it is important is that disc degeneration is a progressive problem. In other words, it get worse over time. Therefore, if the process can be slowed or even stopped, then the sooner you begin, the better – Right? Absolutely Right!

It is my strong belief that cervical disc disease can be prevented or at least slowed in it’s onset with regular chiropractic care.

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I was always dismayed to see moderate to advanced cervical degenerative disc disease in fairly young patients who had never been to a chiropractor before seeing me. Many times it wasn’t the disc disease that caused them to come in for evaluation.

Some of them had had a recent auto accident or trauma of some type to their neck. We found, kind of by accident, that they had cervical degenerative disc disease.

What this now meant for them was that their recovery period was going to be longer and harder because of the pre-existing degeneration in their cervical spine. Some people are never able to fully heal from an injury to their neck if they have pre-existing spinal degeneration. What could have been a minor injury now becomes a chronic problem that they never fully get over. This is sad and it doesn’t have to happen.

What are the Symptoms of Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease?

You may have quite a bit of degeneration in your cervical spine without having symptoms. But as the degeneration gets worse you will start having pain and dysfunction. At first you may just feel some stiffness in your neck, which can be dangerous driving if you can’t turn your head fully to watch for oncoming traffic. Then it can cause neck pain which can radiate into your shoulders and down your arm if the degeneration starts putting pressure on your spinal cord or spinal nerves. There can also be numbness and tingling of your arm and hand. Eventually a disc herniation or rupture can occur as your disc continues to wear out.

What Causes cervical degenerative disc disease?

You probably know that it is common for older folks to have more arthritis in their spines than younger people. But I have had 90 year old patients without any noticeable arthritis in their spines. So we know that cervical degenerative disc disease doesn’t happen to everyone.

Who does it happen to? Well it does happen more as we age due to less moisture in the discs of your spine which leads to disc thinning and arthritis.

But this degeneration could start much earlier than it should in your spine due to a loss of normal movement between the bones in your spine.

There are many things that can cause early degenerative changes. Any trauma to your spine such as an auto accident, fall, work injury, sports injury, or repetitive stress injury, just to name a few, can cause your neck muscles to tighten, which limits normal motion.

Loss of normal motion in your spine restricts the normal flow of nutrients into the discs in your spine which causes premature degenerative changes.

What Are My Treatment Options?

This is where chiropractic care can play an important role. Chiropractors check your spine to see if it is moving properly. If it isn’t, they use a gentle treatment called an adjustment to restore proper healthy function back to your spine.

Other treatments that improve motion to stiff spines could include neck stretches, moist heat, cervical exercises, physical therapy, and massage therapy. These are all considered conservative treatments that in my opinion will help prevent cervical degenerative disc disease by maintaining normal motion in your spine.

Even if you already have cervical degenerative disc disease, these conservative treatments are a good thing to try first. They can’t reverse the degenerative process and restore your spine to full health, but they often can relieve inflammation and pain. They probably also slow down further degeneration.

If you have pain in addition to stiffness in your spine you can use ice or heat for pain relief.

If conservative treatment is not enough for you to get relief, then there are a number of medications your doctor can recommend for relief.

If your condition has deteriorated to the point that there is direct pressure on your spinal cord or nerves coming of your spinal cord you may need to be evaluated by a surgeon for possible spinal surgery.

To Your Best Health,

Dr. Cliff

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