Treating Degenerative Disc Disease with Chiropractic Care

Question: I'm in my late 50s, and I have neck pain caused by degenerative disc disease. Can chiropractic care help me? Which chiropractic techniques will my chiropractor use?
— Lyndhurst, OH
Woman having a chiropractic adjustmentAnswer: The aging process is a common cause of degenerative disc disease (DDD), and it could be part of the reason why you have DDD. You're in luck, though, because there are several chiropractic techniques that can help treat your neck pain caused by DDD.

Your chiropractor will recommend techniques to help address your neck pain and symptoms, but before he or she can recommend specific chiropractic treatments, the chiropractor will take a thorough medical history and do a physical exam.

According to high-quality guidelines based on scientific evidence, it is not necessary to take an x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan for the common forms of neck pain (eg, non-specific neck pain).1,2,3 But depending on your symptoms, your chiropractor may or may not recommend imaging tests such as x-rays or MRI scans.

Your chiropractor can help you decide if chiropractic care may benefit you and, if so, exactly which chiropractic treatments are best for you based on what he or she finds in your history, exam, and imaging tests (if needed).

A chiropractic treatment plan for neck pain caused by degenerative disc disease may include a combination of techniques: spinal manipulation (also called spinal adjustment), soft tissue manipulation, joint mobilization techniques, specific therapeutic exercises and instruction in the active management of your condition.

If your neck pain is something that you just recently noticed, your chiropractor may also recommend a short course of physical therapy treatments, such as ice, heat, and electric muscle stimulation (a treatment that uses a mild electric current to help relax muscles and provide pain relief), to help reduce acute pain.

In addition to chiropractic and physical therapy treatments, your chiropractor may give you specific therapeutic exercises to do to help reduce, control, and prevent neck pain. He or she may also give you recommendations on how to function in your daily life in ways that may reduce pain and promote healing.

The treatment options mentioned above are just some examples of what may be included in your chiropractic treatment plan for neck pain caused by DDD. Your chiropractor will thoroughly explain all of your treatment options—both chiropractic and non-chiropractic—and discuss the risks and benefits of each option.

Once you have this information, and all of your questions are answered, you can make an informed decision about what form of treatment suits your goals and preferences. If you choose chiropractic care for neck pain caused by degenerative disc disease, a reasonable trial of short-term care should be sufficient to demonstrate the effectiveness of your chosen plan.