Degenerative Disc Disease Eased By Chiropractic

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a common complaint among aging adults, and is a frequent source of lower back and neck pain. As we age, the spinal discs separating the vertebrae begin to break down and degenerate, which often causes degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, and disc herniation.

A recent case study highlighted the effectiveness of chiropractic care for an older man with degenerative disc disease. He also suffered from a condition called diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH), sometimes referred to as Forestier's disease. DISH is characterized by calcification (hardening) of the ligaments along the sides of the spine , causing decreased range of motion and stiffness.

The man was a 74-year old veteran with severe low-back pain and a loss of sensation in his legs. Physical and radiological examinations revealed he had DISH, DDD, degeneration of the facet joints in the lumbar spine, and pelvic dysfunction.

A chiropractor used the Activator Method to perform gentle, instrument-assisted spinal adjustments. After four adjustments, the man reported he had not experienced back pain for one week and was able to rely on a cane instead of a walker. At this time, he began to experience elbow pain as a result of cane use, and still suffered from pelvic dysfunction. The elbow pain was relieved after one adjustment, and additional treatments were applied to his lower back and pelvis. After seven weeks, he was still experiencing numbness in his legs but the loss of sensation was subsiding. By the end of treatment, he reported a complete resolution in pain and his disability scores dropped by 70%. These improvements were still present at the one-year follow-up.

Although many studies have demonstrated the benefits of chiropractic for osteoarthritis and DDD, few studies have documented the use of the Activator Method for such conditions. The study also suggests that chiropractic may be beneficial for alleviating symptoms of DISH, and reinforces research on the safety and efficacy of chiropractic for relieving back pain in seniors. In fact, a recent survey found that chiropractic and massage are the most sought-after alternative treatments among seniors.


Robert JA and Wolfe TM. Chiropractic management of a veteran with lower back pain associated with diffuse idiopathic skeletal hypertrophy and degenerative disk disease. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 2012; 11(4): 293-299.