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A Patient's Guide to Spinal Degeneration

At Kleefeld Chiropractic patients frequently present with pain associated with underlying spinal degeneration evidenced on x-rays and other imaging studies.

Anatomically, the intervertebral disc sits between each vertebra and acts as a shock absorber.  With aging it changes or degenerates over time similar to our hair turning gray. 

This aging or degenerative process is accelerated with macrotrauma such as motor vehicle accident or lifting injuries but also microtrauma such as poor posture, scoliosis, or jobs requiring prolonged sitting.  Family genetics sometimes plays a role.


The pain and disability associated with spinal degeneration can be constant and ongoing or episodic.  Because spinal degeneration is not always associated with pain, many patients with spinal degeneration clearly visible on imaging studies, experienced no significant pain.  This is because the pain associated with spinal degeneration is most often mechanical.

When present, the pain is typically constant.  The pain tends to worsen with heavy physical activity or staying in one position for too long.  The back may also feel very stiff particularly in the morning.  Resting the back partially eases the pain.

chiropractor discussing spinal degeneration


At Kleefeld Chiropractic diagnosis begins with history taking and spinal examination.  Spinal examination reveals local tenderness, protective muscle spasm, restricted spinal joint mobility.  With trauma x-rays are sometimes appropriate and reveal the characteristic narrowing of the disc spaces and bony spur formation so commonly associated with spinal degeneration.


Treatment depends on many factors including the severity of injury and is diagnosis specific.  Absent any contraindications, Dr. Kleefeld recommends that the first line of treatment focus on pain reduction and would typically include a combination of the following:

  • Spinal manipulation of involved joint dysfunction to restore normal motion
  • Ultrasound to reduce inflammation and minimize adhesions
  • Interferential current to reduce muscle spasm, swelling and pain
  • Massage therapy if painful trigger points are evidenced on examination
  • Customized exercise program as recovery allows
  • Homecare measures such as ice and heat as indicated
  • Medication management
  • Activity modification initially as pain parameters allow
  • Normalization of activities of daily living as pain complaints settle.
  • Specialty consultation and x-rays if symptoms persist.

Should you require any additional information Dr. Kleefeld can be contacted at 530-722-9010! 

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