What is degenerative disc disease exactly? This is a question that I get all the time, since so many patients are diagnosed with the condition and really do not fully understand the implications of this spinal aging phenomenon. In some cases, DDD is diagnosed by the more logical and objective term disc desiccation. Doctors sometimes provide the answer, reassuring patients and getting them to focus on the real reasons for their pain. However, in some cases, doctors actually foster a fear of normal DDD through their ignorance or purposeful deceit, in order to get patients into profitable ongoing care.
Luckily, this is becoming less and less prevalent as more physicians and patients understand the true facts about degenerative disc disease and stop subscribing to the various myths. This dissertation defines and explains intervertebral degeneration in the human spine.
So, what is DDD? Well, let’s start with what it is not:
First, disc degeneration is not a disease. It is a not a causation of chronic pain in the vast majority of diagnosed patients. DDD is not a source for concern in the vast majority of patients. It is certainly not a reason to seek back pain treatment in the vast majority of diagnosed patients. DDD is not unusual or unexpected.
If you find that you are diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, especially in your lumbar spine or cervical spine, you should not be surprised. If degenerative disc disease is not generally a villain or a source of painful symptoms, then what is it?
Degenerative disc disease is a terrible name for a series of processes which occur normally and naturally in every human on the planet. As we age, the spinal discs lose moisture and their ability to retain moisture. This causes them to shrink in mass, height and circumference. This is what is called DDD. Personally, I do not use the term, since it is incredibly scary sounding and misleading. Why call something a disease that is not a disease? I prefer the name disc degeneration or disc desiccation, since these are more scientifically accurate.
I agree that extreme levels of disc degeneration can be potentially problematic, although I have yet to actually come across many cases myself. After all, I only communicate with tens of thousands of back pain patients a year, for many years already, so what do I know? In my experience, DDD is yet another scapegoat on which back and neck pain is blamed, although it is rarely the correctly identified source of symptoms.
Ok, so let’s get back to the controversial beginning of this article to handle the anger issues of all the doctors reading this...
I am a firm believer that most doctors and chiropractors truly want to do good for their patients. I also believe that most would never intentionally misdiagnose a patient, especially not for the sake of profit. However, I also know for a fact that some do impose mythical and ludicrous nonsense into the minds and hearts of patients simply to put money in their pockets. Others do it out of ignorance or because they do not know what else to tell patients who want answers. Some care providers are stuck in the medical industry of 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years ago, when any structural abnormality was deemed inherently causative for pain.
Well, just like the idea that the world is flat became antiquated, so did the idea that DDD is inherently painful. The problem is that no one told some of the less enlightened doctors who had been diagnosing it for decades already. Remember DDD is the ideal scapegoat, since it is always there. I have never seen your MRI report, but I can already tell you that DDD is likely to be noted to one degree or another.