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Chiropractic treatments can help restore proper alignment to vertebrae, but they can also take painful pressure off the disks between them.
Intervertebral disks are the shock absorbers of the spine. These oval-shaped sacs sit between each pair of vertebrae, cushioning them from the impact of everyday movements. Each disk is made up of two parts: a fibrous shell known as the annulus fibrosus and a gel-like substance called the nucleus pulposus. Much like a waterbed shifting under the weight of a misplaced bowling ball, the disk changes shape whenever the spine rotates or flexes, fluidly adjusting to absorb the motion and protect the vertebrae.
Unfortunately, just as waterbeds eventually mature into box springs, intervertebral disks don’t last forever. Over time, the disks begin to lose elasticity and flexibility—a condition called degenerative disk disease (DDD) that affects 60% of people over the age of 40, according to Medscape. This can lead to problems such as neck or lower-back pain or more serious conditions such as herniation, which occurs when the disk’s inner fluids leak through the annulus fibrosus. Although DDD can be the source of chronic pain, treatment does not always require surgery. Often, DDD can be managed with physio-therapy, over-the-counter medications, and chiropractic treatments, such as spinal adjustments or spinal decompression.