Disc Desiccation is a state of progressive decrease in health of a vertebral disc.
The spine is made up of vertebral bones stacking on top of each other with spongy intervertebral disc structures that provide padding and shock absorption and give some 'float' to the movement of the bones and joints of the spine.
Back pain, be it upper back pain, mid back pain, or lower back pain happens for a variety of reasons.
A desiccated disc can be part of that process, but it's just one factor of many that all conspire together to create pain in the back.
A desiccated disc doesn't just develop out of the blue, a disc desiccates for a very predictable set of reasons. Know the reasons, and you can get your spinal disc(s) healthy again. (It is reversible, no matter what your doctor tells you.)
An intervertebral disc SHOULD be soft and squishy. It should be a juicy bouncy shock absorber. That makes for a very healthy back.
Look Like This!
Desiccation basically means 'drying out'.
Technically the disc is a hardish outer shell and a gummy middle, but for this I like to use the sponge analogy.
The term 'desiccation' is really just the name for the PROCESS of the disc itself drying out and changing structural qualities, (kind of like a grape turning into a raisin).
The definition of desiccation from thefreedictionary.com is:
1. To dry out thoroughly. 2. To preserve (foods) by removing the moisture. 3. To make dry, dull, or lifeless.
That's exactly what's happening here.
All the discs in your back are like soft squishy sponges. When you squeeze a sponge, it loses water. The dryer a sponge gets, the harder it gets. Eventually it becomes brittle and fragile.That's what happens to create a desiccated disc. Over time, for reasons we'll explain in the next section, the soft pliable tissue of your spinal disc becomes dry, fragile, and weak.
This structural change happens over time, going from healthy and squishy to less healthy and dry and hard and fragile. This does not happen overnight. And the more that drying out process progresses, the higher the likelihood that you'll have back pain and disc pain issues.
So let's keep your healthy discs healthy, avoid your desiccated discs getting any worse, and make your 'bad' discs healthier.
So what causes disc desiccation? Great question!
First off, discs don't dry out for no good reason. Discs desiccate on purpose! It's no accident. It's NOT from a 'natural' process of aging, it's purely a function of overall health and lifestyle.
So no, you can't use 'I'm old' as an excuse or a justification to remain in pain. (Most everything is reversible.)
There are specific physiological causes of desiccation of a disc, and those same physical causes are responsible for the development of back pain, regardless of whether it's in the neck or back.
The desiccation process happens like this:
1. Back muscles surrounding (and connected to) the vertebral bones get tight over time. Every time we contract a muscle, when we relax we retain a certain amount of that contraction.
See: The Pain Causing Dynamic (this opens up a new page from my TendonitisExpert.com site that explains this process).
2. Muscles get tight, they stay tight.
3. Over time, connective tissue shrinkwraps those muscles, causing muscle constriction.
4. This muscle and connective tissue tightness compresses the spine, compressing the discs, squishing them.
5. Like a constantly half squeezed sponge, the compressed disc gets dryer and tighter due to less movement and less circulation.
6. The nervous system starts to freak out because it sees that the discs aren't doing their job and thus thinks the back is in danger, so bless it's heart it does the only thing it knows how to do...it tightens muscles to 'guard and protect'.
7. Repeat. The disc gets more and more compressed, and less and less healthy. It becomes dry and cruncy, loses it's elasticity, and falls into a degenerative state. Thus degenerative disc disease, bulging disc, and ruptured disc.
IT'S A PROCESS!
You'll see the above repeated frequently on this site. It's SUPER important to understand the process of why you have back pain and disc desiccation. It's a process, not an accident, not some bad thing that magically happened to you.
Dehydration, nutritional insufficiency/deficiency, poor posture, and a variety of other factors are also part of the equation.
Disc desiccation is part of a drying out -process-, and you can reverse the process and make things better.
Common sense tells us that a dry brittle disc that has lost it's shock absorption capabilities is what causes pain.
Fortunately for us, in this particular case common sense is wrong!
Just like the disc affected by degenerative disc disease doesn't HAVE to cause pain, neither does a bulging disc, nor even a ruptured disc have to cause pain. Nor a desiccated disc.
TONS of people have all sorts of disc 'problems' but don't have any back pain. So just because you have a desiccating disc doesn't mean you have to have pain.
The thing to worry about is the reason WHY your disc is desiccating. Muscle tightness, lack of mobility, compression, inflammation, etc, those are the factors to worry about. Those are what cause back pain.
Don't get me wrong, the desiccated disc itself doesn't help, so definitely work to repair that.
And make it healthy BEFORE it turns into a bulging or ruptured disc.
How do you do that? What a great question!
Disc Desiccation treatment varies depending on who you talk to.
Doctors like rest and pharmaceuticals and referring you to physical therapy for stretching and strengthening.
Physical therapists like stretching and strengthening and ultrasound and hot pads and e-stim. Chances are you've already tried all that if you're here.
Chiropractors will want to adjust you several times a week for some period of weeks, which I'm not a fan of. Some will have a DRX-100 machine, which I've hear good things about.
Surgeons like surgery, obviously.
Here at Fix-Back-Pain we like to look at the SOURCE of the problem. The disc itself is a SYMPTOM, not a cause.
We talked about the causes of disc desiccation above: chronic tightness of muscle and connective tissue which causes compression of the joints and discs, dehydration, nutritional insufficiency, etc.
There is pill that's going to fix back pain or disc problems. There never will be.
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