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djd: a brilliant marketing ploy


If we live long enough, all of us are going to show signs of Spinal Degeneration.  The truth is, these bodies we live in wear out.  This is not some new revelation.  It is common knowledge.  It’s life.   Degeneration and decay are something that begin happening to us almost from the time we are born.  Your goal should be to both understand how the process works, and then slow it to a crawl. 
Spinal Degeneration

All three images by © Nevit Dilmen

These three lateral x-rays of the neck show varying degrees of Spinal Degeneration.  In the picture on the left, you can see ‘decent’ disc space in the top part of the neck.  But at C5-C6, the disc is significantly thinner.  In the middle example, the greatest degree of thinning is at C5-C6, with a calcification at the front part of the C6 disc.  The scenario is almost identical in the neck on the right.  Note the bone spurs and thin discs near the bottom (compare disc height where the shoulder makes everything white, to the discs up near the top of the neck.   When we see degenerative changes at the C5-C6 or C6-C7 levels, there is a good chance that it is due to some sort of old WHIPLASH INJURY.  All three of these films exhibit a LOSS OF THE NORMAL CERVICAL CURVE.
Spinal Degeneration is defined as thinning discs, bone spurs, and calcification.  When we see systemic degenerative changes in the spine (Spinal Degeneration that is fairly uniform throughout the entire spine, we know that we are looking either at the results of getting older, or a systemic “Disease” process.  However, when we see local degeneration of the spine (Spinal Degeneration that is not widespread, but confined to very specific areas), we know that something very specific caused these degenerative changes.  The question now becomes, what causes degenerative changes in the spines of people who can in no ways be considered “old”?


Let’s take just a moment to review the reasons that people get Spinal Degeneration.  Although this is way over-simplified, there are essentially three of them.

  • AGE:  Like I said earlier, if we live long enough, we will all end up with at least some degenerative changes in our spines.  It’s the nature of the beast.  However, you must also be aware that this happens to be the most convenient scapegoat for CHRONIC NECK PAIN (or for that matter back pain, shoulder pain, etc, etc) as well.  Just remember that science has shown that spinal degeneration — especially in the elderly — does not correlate to neck pain as well as you would think (HERE).


  • THE ABNORMAL BIOMECHANICS CAUSED BY OLD INJURIES & ABNORMAL POSTURES:  Cartilage and Spinal Discs have virtually no blood supply.  Why does this matter?  Because blood brings the things that cells, organs, and tissues need to live (water, nutrients, oxygen).  It also prevents cellular toxicity by carrying away waste products.  Loss of, or abnormal joint motion is a known cause of Degenerative Arthritis.  Over time, ABNORMAL BIOMECHANICS cause degeneration; while degeneration causes abnormal biomechanics.  More on this in a moment.


  • PROCESSED FOODS:  The brilliant dentist, DR. WESTON PRICE, wrote the book on this very subject back in 1939 (Nutrition & Physical Degeneration).  He and his wife traveled the world, seeking out 10 cultures that had examples of indigenous people who had never been introduced to processed food living alongside people who were eating processed food (mostly commercially milled flour and white sugar) — the pictures alone are worth the price of admission.  Suffice it to say that Dr. Price (a dentist) shows you proof positive that besides making you fat and causing a whole host of well-understood health problems, processed foods destroy / rot the structure of the physical body —- BONES AND TEETH.

The problem is, it has become easy —– “convenient” might be a better word —– for the medical community to blame all degenerative changes in the spine and skeletal system on age.  Well after all Mrs. Jones; you just have to expect this kind of thing.  (While patting your shoulder, nodding the head, and looking at you with that “sorry; it’s just too bad” look) You just aren’t as young as you used to be.  Why is it convenient to tell all patients stories like this?  Because it is a statement that contains enough truth, no matter how old or young you are, to make us all think it is true.  Besides that, it goes hand in hand with the marketing coup that has been accomplished over the past 5-10 years.  You see; if doctors can convince their patients that most of their health problems (including Degenerative Arthritis) are caused by age and not lifestyle, they can sell them on the new name change — DJD / DDD.  And then they can sell them on a lifetime of drugs and surgery.  That’s right Mrs Jones; you now have a “disease” in your spine.

Our medical community has bailed on the old names used for describing this process (as well as the explanations of why it came to be there in the first place) and replaced them with “diseases“.  For those with degeneration in the spine we now have Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD), and for those whose problems involve non-spinal joints we have Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD).  Many times these two terms are used interchangeably. 

It is a great tactic if your goals are financially motivated.  Tack the word “disease” onto the end of just about any health problem, tell people that there is really nothing that can be done about it other than taking various DRUGS and INJECTIONS, then let them know that SURGERY is inevitable.  It’s just a matter of time Mrs Jones.  But is this being fair with patients?  Is it being truthful?  Is it looking out for the patient’s best interest?  I say not!  Educating patients about the way that this process really works?  There is too much money at stake to tell people the truth.  Besides, it would require some extra time and effort.

It is critical to understand that even subtle changes in joint motion that result from CAR WRECKS, heavy or repetitive work over time, EXPOSURE TO CONCRETE, POOR POSTURE, SPORTS INJURIES, or any other things that change the way that joints work, have the ability to cause joint degeneration.  Loss of joint motion causes degeneration, but degeneration causes loss of joint motion.  It becomes a terribly vicious cycle that is seemingly always blamed on one’s age, when the reality is that DJD (or whatever name it’s going by these days) is actually a COMBINATION PROBLEM — a mixture of both inflammation and poor mechanics. 

Tackling degenerative spines the natural way can produce amazing results.  Sometimes this is best served with CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENTS.   Often times TISSUE REMODELING can be a huge part of the solution.  At other times, COLD LASER THERAPY might be called for.  Many of these approaches will need some form of NUTRITIONAL SUPPORT — particularly if your diet has been poor over the years. Sometimes, combinations of these things are required.  Whatever the case, it’s imperative to deal with the underlying inflammation.


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