The Dangers of Dr. Google
Updated: Jul 30
“My back is terrible, it’s bone-on-bone and I have degeneration everywhere.” These phrases are common in the chiropractic office. Patients have had x-rays done and been given a report that used a bunch of long, interesting words to describe their x-ray findings. They may have read something like “degenerative disc disease noted at L5 with sclerotic facets and decreased lumbar lordosis.” If you’re unsure what these words mean, naturally you then go to Dr. Google. What does Dr. Google say? He says that degenerative disc disease is “osteoarhtritis of the spine; chronic: meaning it can last for years of be lifelong, and that treatment can help, but this condition can’t be cured.”
If someone or something tells you that you have a lifelong condition that can’t be cured, that’s a lot to take in. It can take a serious psychological toll on someone. This can then worsen into a fear of any movement because it may damage your back further, overall belief that you are “damaged”, and a belief that you will always be in pain.
DON’T DO THIS.
Listen to the squirrel.
While Dr. Google and WebMD do provide facts regarding certain health conditions, these sites will tell you the worst case scenarios of certain conditions first and naturally these are what we’re drawn to. Now if the worst case scenario for degenerative disc disease is a lifelong condition that can’t be cured, what I’m going to do next is explain what that really means
While degenerative disc disease is a scary sounding phrase, it’s actually a normal process of aging. Dr. Google is technically right that it is lifelong and can’t be cured, because there’s nothing to cure! When seen on x-rays, degenerative disc disease is commonly called the “gray hair of the spine.” Degeneration happens all throughout our lives as we age as a way of adding stability to joints. Too much stability can be a problem for movement, but this is easily noticed with an exam.
Now whether it relates to your low back pain, the most likely answer is that it probably doesn’t. Ninety percent (90%) of low back pain is called non-specific low back pain, meaning that there isn’t one, single structure we can point to and say “that’s 100% the issue”.
However, with a thorough exam we can confidently say “this is most likely the issue” and treat it accordingly. Low back pain is a combination of many different factors involving your muscles, joints and nerves. If you’re wanting to reduce the number of times you have low back pain, the easiest place to start are diet and lifestyle changes. Play with your pet; have a few more veggies for dinner; go for a walk at the end of the day. Making a few small changes is the first step to greater changes! And most importantly, when choosing a healthcare provider to go to, make sure they take the time to listen to your concerns and create a plan with you to meet your goals.
-Dr. Nick Dugger, DC