Spinal Discs: An Overview
Between the spinal vertebrae lie sturdy cartilage pads called intervertebral discs. Each disc creates a fibro cartilaginous joint to allow marginal movement of the vertebrae, and functions as a ligament to secure them. Healthy discs have a spongy consistency, thick and flexible. This allows the spine to bend and twist. An unhealthy disc is rigid, which makes it prone to bulging or herniation. Over time, spinal discs can compress or degenerate due to trauma, chronic joint dysfunction, or the effects of gravity. This constant compression prevents vital oxygen and nutrients from flowing into the disc, causing the outer layers to soften; thus, facilitating the onset of injury or disease. The discs of the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine) are the most prone to injury.
Spinal disc disease can manifest in a variety of ways. Significant disc damage can result in a bulging disc, or even a tear—or herniation. Sometimes, the gelatinous material inside the disc bursts through a vulnerable area in the outer layer, resulting in a Ruptured Disc. As well, the gelatinous center of the disc dehydrates as we age and Degenerative Disc Disease can set in. All forms of disc injury can distress the nerves exiting the spine, leading to a “pinched nerve,” causing numbness, tingling, and burning or sharp pain down the arms or legs. A sharp pain originating in the back and “shooting” down the legs is called sciatica.
Degenerative Disc Disease: An Overview
There are two key principles regarding Degenerative Disc Disease:
Spinal discs do NOT have a direct blood supply. There are no arteries to transfer oxygen and nutrients to the spinal discs. It follows then, that these hungry discs must seek nourishment elsewhere. Normal, healthy discs are sustained by the perpetual recycling of disc fluid generated by with spinal joint movement. It draws-in fluid rich in oxygen and nutrients, and expels the waste. The internal disc pressure (intradiscal pressure) significantly influences this process.
The discs of the spine are under continuous pressure. The spinal discs maintain flexibility in the spine by acting as shock absorbers in a car. While shock absorbers maintain resistance against the weight and movement of the car, spinal discs maintain pressure on vertebra to ensure adequate distance between each one. Unfortunately, this process every day, making it difficult for the body to “suck” in new, healthy disc fluid with its vital oxygen and nutrients.
These two factors make it difficult for the body to maintain thick, plump, healthy discs, thusly, Degenerative Disc Disease is a common spinal disorder.
Degenerative Disc Disease: As the disc degenerates it shrinks (Disc Height Reduction) which causes it the nerves between them to become “sandwiched.”
As its name implies, Degenerative Disc Disease is caused by the progressive degeneration of the intervertebral disc.Even the least strenuous physical activities can place undue strain on these discs. Over time, the spinal discs weaken, leading to what we now refer to as Degenerative Disc Disease.
It begins with an acute lack of oxygen and nutrients, resulting from extreme disc compression caused by dehydration. Bending, twisting, lifting, even sitting for prolonged periods can irritate the spinal discs and cause them to compress. Decreased hydration occurs when less fluid is pulled into the disc than is “pressed” out of the disc. Over time, the discs dehydrate and Disc Desiccation sets in. Doctors prescribe an MRI to accurately determine and diagnose a suspected case of Degenerative Disc Disease.
Degenerative Disc Disease:: Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
The symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease can vary widely depending on location and severity. For the most part, the disc itself causes little to no pain, aside from minor stiffness and aches upon awakening. However, as the day progresses, the pain typically subsides.
The most painful and debilitating symptom of Degenerative Disc Disease is direct nerve compression. This occurs when the spinal disc begins to narrow, which in turn, causes the foramen (space between nerves) to shrink, as well. This narrowing and shrinking—both elements of the degenerative process— are conditions known as Disc Height Reduction and Neural Foraminal Narrowing. The latter describes the bone-on-nerve friction which results in sharp pain, burning, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. Over time, the degenerative process can spread to the internal organs in proximity to these affected nerves. To summarize, the symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease do not originate in disc itself, but rather, the impact the degenerative process has on the surrounding nerves.
Treatment of Degenerative Disc Disease
Using DTS Spinal Decompression Therapy
Prior to the advent of Spinal Decompression technology, there was not a curative treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease. At the time, the available treatments addressed the symptoms only, such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, chiropractic care, home exercises, bed rest, narcotic pain medication, muscle relaxant medication, antidepressant medication, epidural steroid injections and nerve blocks. Another option was cervical/lumbar fusion surgery, during which the disc was removed and the bones above and below were fused. The success rate of this surgery is quite low, and relief is temporary, as the procedure is repeated every seven years in nearly 100% of cases. Disc Replacement Surgery remains on the horizon, as initial results are less-than-favorable.
Spinal Decompression is the only treatment available that effectively reduces the severity of Degenerative Disc Disease symptoms, by treating the source of the degeneration—chronic disc compression and dehydration.
How Does it Work?
DTS Spinal Decompression reverses the ravages of Degenerative Disc Disease by slowly and methodically separating the bones of the spine, which reduces the pressure within the spinal discs from ≅ 25 millimeters of mercury (25 mm Hg) to ≅ 200 millimeters of mercury (-200 mm Hg). This negative pressure rehydrates the disc by forcing water, oxygen and nutrients into the nucleus. Repeated spinal decompression treatments draw the gelatinous core (Nucleus Pulposus) back into the center of the disc, relieving nerve pressure.
DTS is a precise, computer-controlled therapeutic treatment that decompresses painful and herniated discs through an oscillating sequence of extending and relaxing the vertebra. This innovative technology functions to negate muscle spasms characteristic of the antiquated “traction” methods of days gone by. Further, our DTS unit also integrates a cutting-edge angulated elongation method that targets specific spinal discs such as the L5/S, located at the base of the spine. The term “Angulated Elongation” defines the angle at which the decompression energy is directed. This preferred therapeutic approach diminishes the need for applied strength (manually forcing the separation of vertebra) by focusing on a specific spinal segment to heal and restore individual spinal discs.
The vertebrae are gently separated using the high-tech DTS Spinal Decompression Unit. As the vertebrae begin to separate, pressure is gradually reduced within the disc (intradiscal pressure), forming a vacuum. This vacuum then draws the gelatinous center of the disc inward, thereby reducing disc bulge and/or herniation. Once the bulging and herniation are reduced, spinal nerve pressure is alleviated, which in turn, results in a marked reduction in pain and discomfort. This vacuum also disperses vital oxygen, nutrients and fluid into injured and degenerated discs, which facilitates a naturally robust healing.