Don’t Hold Your Breath for An Artificial Spine

degeneration, thin discs

Phase II Degeneration

Discs degenerate due to bad spinal mechanics over a long period of time.  When this happens, the joint—that is—a vertebrae, a disc and the vertebrae on the other side of the disc—stops moving. This prevents normal in and out flow of waste and nutrients and ultimately causes the disc to dry out. It also gets thinner due to losing water content; and this leaves the disc itself more prone to bulging, herniations and tears.  In traditional medicine, if you’re having a symptom that correlates with degenerating discs—like you’re having neck pain and it’s found out discs in your neck are degenerating, then you’ll probably get referred to physical therapy—exercises and probably prescriptions for anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxers. If you aren’t happy after that, they may recommend steroid or trigger point injections. And then once the pain is severe enough, surgery may be recommended to fuse the two bones surrounding the dying disc.  In recent months, I’ve personally been solicited by orthopedic offices to consider referring my patients for artificial disc replacement. Frankly, the thought of the procedure sounded friendlier than a fusion. But I didn’t really know anything about the artificial discs. And then I saw an article in an August issue of the Denver Post reporting on dissatisfaction with artificial spinal discs. I typically only give newspaper articles a little credit because they are notorious for slanting their articles to be provocative.  However, they quote a University of California/Irvine spine surgery professor as saying the artificial discs are unsafe and should never have been approved by the FDA. He claims 10 patients complained of worsening pain since the procedure. The article doesn’t cite how many had a good success with it either. If only 10 people had good success, it sounds like a dubious procedure. If 1000 had good success and only 10 got worse, then it might really have some merit.  I honestly don’t know if the disc product itself is unsafe as 28 lawsuits filed against the manufacturer suggest, or just the nature of undergoing spine surgery itself is the unpredictable part. But I do know that ABC™ chiropractic can help keep a person out of surgery. It can certainly keep up function to a livable level if things have gotten bad.  But the most important thing would be to keep the spine healthy so that degeneration isn’t a consideration. Good spinal mechanics will lessen the chance of degeneration because the joints don’t get as much wearing and tearing. So as much as people like to joke to me that they’ll be the first in line for a spine replacement, why not just keep up a regular spinal check-up schedule and follow the posture instructions? It’s much easier than facing either a spinal fusion or an artificial disc!


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