There are many degenerative disc disease myths which are actively perpetuated by the medical community, mostly in an attempt to continue to enjoy the benefits of the various highly profitable long-term treatment regimens generally prescribed for this condition.
Degenerative disc disease is certainly nothing unexpected, since it is a universal part of spinal aging experienced by every person on this earth. While it is most prevalent in the cervical and lumbar spines, it can happen anywhere in the spinal column, resulting in this sometimes disturbing diagnosis.
The words degenerative disc disease are incredibly frightening for patients to hear. I can say from first hand experience, that as a 16 year old being diagnosed very unexpectedly, I was devastated by the news of my seemingly crumbling spine. The way the diagnosis was presented to me was in the most somber and scary way possible. I suffered terribly from this news for many years until my research efforts brought me around to the actual facts concerning degenerative disc disease.
This essay seeks to debunk many of the mythologies surrounding disc desiccation.
Being that most patients receive the diagnosis from their physician and then ask for details, it seems obvious that these pieces of misinformation are being disseminated directly from doctors. Your patient surveys and actual stories have confirmed this on many occasions. Here are some of the many myths that I hear often concerning disc degeneration:
DDD results from accidents or injuries.
DDD eventually requires surgery in almost every case.
DDD is a major source of back pain.
Ok, now let’s clarify these myths with some facts:
DDD is rarely painful at all and is certainly not usually responsible for explaining the type of severe and chronic pain often blamed on it. Symptomatic DDD is the extreme exception to the rule.
DDD is a normal process which occurs regardless of accident or injury. It may be true that trauma can accelerate disc degeneration, but this does not make the condition any more prone to enacting symptoms in most patients.
DDD almost never requires surgery and in fact, surgery is not generally recommended as a treatment option based on very poor curative statistics.
Disc degeneration diagnoses are most often made in patients 25 to 55. These are certainly not the years of most noticeable degeneration, but they are the years when most patients complain of back pain. Meanwhile, disc desiccation in the elderly is far worse, but related back ache is rare.
There is little or no evidence that DDD is linked to back pain at all.
You must surely know that many care providers rely heavily on structural scapegoats on which back or neck pain can be convincingly blamed. Without these, your doctor or chiropractor would simply have to look you in the eye and say:
Mr. Patient, I don’t actually know why your back hurts. Therefore, I do not know what to treat. (Therefore, you get to keep your money and I do not get to enjoy it!)
DDD, like many other spinal abnormalities, can be visualized on the various forms of diagnostic imaging. It definitely exists. In fact, it is present in virtually every adult spine to one degree or another. Do not be surprised to hear that you have it. Be surprised if you do not!
DDD is an ideal scapegoat, since it is present in the lower back and neck, which are also the areas most likely to be involved in a chronic pain syndrome. Doctors love DDD, since they know it will be there, even before testing for it and being that no treatment will stop it or reverse it, they can chalk up another customer for ongoing treatment.
I would be way out of line to suggest that degenerative disc disease diagnosis is purely some profit-driven conspiracy devised by selfish doctors. This is not the case (in most instances). Instead, DDD is yet another condition discovered through modern medical imaging which was assumed to cause pain until further research proved conclusively that it is normal and expected, just like wrinkles and gray hair.
DDD is not a sinister illness or disease. It is merely inherent to the human condition. If you are diagnosed with DDD as your primary complaint, you are strongly urged to do your own research and consider the facts and not just suffer under the degenerative disc disease myths.
If not, you may be doomed to suffer continuing pain and worse yet, have almost no hope for a cure, since all the modalities used to treat DDD are purely symptomatic, except degenerative disc surgery, which is another matter all together.