Spinal Decompression/neck disc compression
The disc between c3 and c4 in my neck is compressed (verified by x-ray). Is there any therapy that can repair this - or is it just a matter of rest?
This sound like a simple question that could be answered simply but back or spine problems are the number 2 cause of disability claims in the US behind arthritis according to the CDC (Centers of Disease Control) and likely in Canada as well. This is a serious issue and the process is rather complicated which I will describe below.
A "compressed" disc is a disc that has physically lost height, and as you say this can be clearly seen on x-ray. This is the second step in a process known as degenerative disc disease. First, the disc begins to dry out which is called desiccation. Second, as it gets drier and drier it loses height which narrows the channels or holes from which exit the spinal nerve roots. This narrowing is called spinal stenosis. Third, the resultant stress on the joint causes calcium to build up. This build up has a variety of names dependent upon where it occurs and the extent of damage but in the end it is known as arthritis. This process is counter-intuitive for you would expect that wear and tear on a spinal joint would result in a wearing away of tissue, but in fact bone behaves more like skin. Under stress skin builds up into what is known as a callous, bone builds up into what are known as calcium deposits or sclerosis which gradually become bone spurs or osteophytes, in short arthritis. A picture is worth a thousand words so if you'll click on YouTube
you'll see a video which will make this much clearer.
At issue is the fact that this process is progressive - the worse it gets the faster it gets worse. Eventually as the side walls or annular fibers of the disc get drier and are stressed more and more they begin to bulge. The next jolt causes a tearing or rupture of these fibers resulting in a herniation or protrusion that presses upon or pinches the adjacent nerve root.
So, will rest help? Of course, in the same way that if you had a rock in your shoe resulting in foot pain not walking or standing for long would help. The problem though is that the rock is still there and the next time you walk too far or stand too long the pain comes back. In the past, a patient suffering from disc problems was usually given pain medications or injections, instructed to refrain from physical activities, referred for physical therapy, and when they weren't progressing they were sent for spinal surgery or simply told to learn to live it.
Since 2001 when the FDA finally approved non-surgical spinal decompression therapy, there is new hope for those who suffer from degenerative disc disease. Spinal Decompression Therapy is a non-invasive, non-surgical treatment performed on a special, computer controlled table similar in some ways to an ordinary traction table. A single disc level is isolated and by utilizing specific traction and relaxation cycles throughout the treatment, along with proper positioning, negative pressure can actually be created within the disc. It works by gently separating the offending disc 5 to 7 millimeters creating negative pressure (or a vacuum) inside the disc to pull water, oxygen, and nutrients into the disc, thereby re-hydrating a degenerated disc and bringing in the nutrients needed to heal the torn fibers and halt the degenerative process. As the disc is re-hydrated the shock absorbing properties are restored, many times some of the lost height is restored, and a normal life can be resumed.
Dr. Michael L. Hall, D.C.
practices at Triangle Disc Care in Raleigh, North Carolina specializing in Spinal Decompression for the treatment of acute and chronic neck pain and back pain due to herniated, degenerated discs. This is a conservative procedure for patients suffering with bulging or herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, posterior facet syndrome, sciatica, failed back surgery syndrome, and non-specified mechanical low back or neck pain.
For more information call 919-571-2515, click on www.triangledisc.com
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