Typically, as most patients age, they will begin to feel the wearing down of their joints and muscles. This pain is not only likely, but it is probable that some (if not all) of that pain will come from the back. Besides acute back injuries that are a result of incidental injury and typically heal within a matter of weeks, aging patients will likely deal with the degeneration and deterioration of their joints. This deterioration can appear in a number of forms and conditions such as osteoarthritis. However, one of the most common conditions patients will face with age is degenerative disc disease.
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) refers specifically to the loss of cushion between the vertebrae in the back and (as mentioned previously) is typically experienced by elderly patients and not a result of an acute injury. In many cases, patients with DDD may not even be aware they have the condition because there will be no symptoms to pinpoint. The fact is our joints wear down throughout our lives– necessitating the intervention for joint health. In other cases, patients with degenerative disc disease will experience reduced flexibility and painful bone spurs that push against the nerves in the back.
Patients who have experienced DDD or are beginning to learn about the condition may see some similarities between it and the condition of osteoarthritis–another chronic pain condition that affects the joints in the vertebrae as well as other joints around the body. Osteoarthritis also increases with age and facilitates the decrease in cushioning between the vertebrae. However, the two conditions, while falling under a similar category of “degenerative skeletal disorders”, should be diagnosed and treated differently. Without the foresight to diagnose these conditions separately, a misdiagnosis could not only result in lackluster treatment but potential harm.
Dr. Shiro Ikegawa from the Laboratory of Bone and Joint Diseases at the Center for Genomic Medicine in Tokyo determined that, “[d]egenerative skeletal disorders are common and serious problems worldwide, especially in aging populations. They are polygenic diseases influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, and hence the identification of susceptibility genes may provide clues to their etiology and pathogenesis, although this is still in its early stages” (2013). Dr. Ikegawa continues to explain that his, “ . . . review focuses on genetic studies of two representative degenerative skeletal disorders: osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease. Genetic studies of these two diseases share common features and face similar problems, although their current statuses are very different”. As was previously stated, one of the most important reasons we much differentiate between the two diseases is so that the proper treatment is administered.
Dr. Ikegawa agrees with this statement and concludes that, “[t]he future success of genetic studies of these diseases will depend on accurate and reliable diagnostics, large-scale interpopulation association studies and replications, and consideration of environmental effects and related diseases with similar phenotypes”. So, while these diseases may have a similar pathogenesis, symptoms, and even overlapping patients who suffer from both, each is different and should be treated differently.
Dr. Michele Battié of the University of Western Toronto shares a similar concern in the identification and clarification of DDD by stating that, “[d]espite longstanding use and important consequences, degenerative disc disease represents an underdeveloped concept, with greatly varying, disparate definitions documented. Such inconsistencies challenge clear, accurate communication in medicine and science, create confusion and misconceptions among clinicians, patients and others, and hinder the advancement of related knowledge” (2019). With even the term “degenerative disc disease” being given multiple meanings, patients might consider any accurate diagnosis or treatment precluded.
Dr. Fadi Taher and his associates accentuate the importance of having a knowledge of DDD and states that, “[u]nderstanding the pathophysiological basis of disc degeneration is essential for the development of treatment strategies that target the underlying mechanisms of disc degeneration rather than the downstream symptom of pain” (2012). Understanding the underlying conditions and of DDD and how those conditions can be ameliorated with high dose platelet rich plasma treatments would go a long way in helping patients get the hope they need to pursue a rich and fulfilling life without DDD. So first, what exactly is DDD and how can patients recognize it?
In order to understand DDD, we should first look at the anatomy of the back and the composition of the vertebrae. Dr. Taher continues to explain that “[t]he intervertebral disc (IVD) is composed of the nucleus pulposus (NP) centrally, the annulus fibrosus (AF) peripherally, and the cartilaginous endplates cranially and caudally at the junction to the vertebral bodies. Within the NP, an abundance of proteoglycans allows for absorption of water. This property of the NP is essential for the IVD’s handling of axial loads. In the healthy disc, the most common type of collagen within the NP is type II collagen. The AF surrounds the NP and consists primarily of type I collagen”. Later on, Dr. Taher explains how this complex composition can break down through degenerative disc disease by concluding that, “With increasing age, the water content of the IVD decreases and fissures in the NP, potentially extending into the AF, can occur, and the start of this process, termed chondrosis intervertebralis, can mark the beginning of degenerative destruction of the IVD, the endplates, and the vertebral bodies. DDD is a complex degenerative process due to age-related changes in molecular composition of the disc. This cascade has biomechanical and often times clinical sequelae that can result in substantial impairment in the afflicted individual”. Dr. Taher continues and explains the most common type of DDD diagnosis by stating that, “Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a more sensitive imaging study for the evaluation of degenerative disc disease. Findings on MRI scan include disc space narrowing, loss of T2 signal within the nucleus pulposus, endplate changes, and signs of internal disc derangement or tears”. Luckily, with this technology and the knowledge of what to look for on the imaging, doctors can accurately diagnose degenerative disc disease. Once diagnosis is determined, patients can look forward to an effective and lasting treatment with high dose platelet rich plasma.
Injecting high dose platelet rich plasma into the regions of the back that are affected by degenerative disc disease is completely safe for a number of reasons. The first reason the procedure is safe is because it is an injection of our own plasma’s healing platelets. When these healing platelets interact with the DDD damaged nerves in the back, they not only reduce the pain experienced by a patient but regenerate the nerves damaged from years of suffering from DDD. Perhaps one of the biggest perks for high dose platelet rich plasma injection is that the process is simple: blood from our own body (autologous blood) is extracted, spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelet rich plasma from the rest of our blood, and the high dose platelet rich plasma is then taken and applied to affected internal areas of the spine.
According to a 2017 study evaluating the high dose platelet rich plasma healing process, doctors concluded that the six pieces of evidence that support nerve regeneration include: “1) neuroprotection and prevention of neuronal apoptosis, 2) stimulation of vascular regeneration, 3) promotion of axonal regeneration, 4) regulation of inflammatory response in the microenvironment, 5) alleviation of nerve collateral muscle atrophy, and 6) improvement of human nervous system parameters” (2017). With the benefits of this natural application of healing platelets in mind, patients struggling with degenerative disc disease are more likely to seek this type of treatment over risky and addictive medications or surgeries.
Orthagenex offers an alternative to medical surgeries and risk-related medications– an alternative that is safe, simple to apply and easily understood by all patients who are seeking relief from degenerative disc disease. Orthagenex High Dose PRP, the most advanced platelet rich plasma treatments in use today, are often the first choice of patients suffering from DDD and patients continue to seek out this treatment after experiencing its pain-relieving effects. As patients continue to educate themselves on the nature of their degenerative disc disease, they will come to learn how high dose platelet rich plasma is a remedy that is right for them. In addition to furthering the education on their condition of back pain, patients can expect fully cooperative consulting with our highly trained professionals at Orthagenex and treatments that work for DDD– including the treatment of High Dose PRP, the most advanced platelet rich plasma treatment available today.