Among the back problems we and our clients experience is a situation allopathic medicine refers to as ‘Degenerative Disc Disease’. From our perspective here at LMD, the only word out of those three that is applicable to the situation is ‘Disc’.
The disc here is of course an intervertebral disc, and it is made of cartilage, which is a type of connective tissue. I have never come across any medical text or article that describes cartilage as a tissue that ‘degenerates’. Degeneration suggests a condition in which something ‘wrong’ is going on inside the cartilage itself, that the tissue is degenerating. Cartilage does not deteriorate from within. It can, however, be worn down.
Think of intervertebral discs as shock absorbers, which is one of their main functions. The discs’ thickness, strength, and resilience is a function of the forces they were designed to deal with. Remember, ‘ideal muscle tone’ is the tone it takes to support the joints in any action the body is doing, and no more. Any tonal value above ideal muscle tone is a hypertonicity. The discs evolved with ideal muscle tone as their basic design parameter.
When hypertonicity becomes chronic in the para-spinal muscle groups, the discs in between the associated vertebrae experience pressures higher than their design parameters. This, over time, is bound to wear them down. They haven’t ‘degenerated’, and they are far from ‘diseased’. They are simply in a situation beyond their design. Everything will wear out prematurely under these circumstances, from your car to your comb.
When a client presents with ‘degenerative disc disease’, your job is pretty obvious at this point, isn’t it? Solve the root cause of the hypertonicities. Of course, our viewpoint here at LMD would be to approach it from a Three-Lever Theory perspective, assessing the SI joints and the Occiput/C1/C2 dynamic, check out rotator cuff, knees, ankles and feet, and proceed from there. A technique I always include in disc issues is: client supine, knees bent at 90 degrees, therapist on table kneeling at client’s feet facing client. Hold the client’s legs above the knees and apply traction. This should always feel good to the client; the more intense the situation the more gentle the traction. I also float the neck, as it’s always a major player in disc issues.
The hypertonicities wearing the discs down are there for a reason, and the job of quality, effective bodywork is to solve the ‘riddle’ of the pattern that is maintaining those hypertonicities. Every situation is unique, nothing works on everyone, something will work on everyone, and the journey is endlessly fascinating. Please, your thoughts and comments.