Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease


What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is a condition in which the discs, located between the individual vertebra, deteriorates and break down. The discs no longer provide support between the vertebrae, which leads to pain and other symptoms.

What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

Complementary and alternative medicine is a group of diverse practices that are not considered part of conventional medicine or the traditional western medicine model. Individuals have been using these therapies for thousands of years. These practices generally have not gone through rigorous, clinical trials like traditional western medicine, but many of these practices are now being researched. Complementary and alternative medicine therapies include: dietary supplements and herbs, traditional Chinese medicine including acupuncture and acupressure, mind-body medicine, and massage.


Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The objective of traditional acupuncture is to restore a person’s qi, healthy energy. This is done by using inserting tiny, fine needles along points on the body, that connect the meridians to the part of the body which is injured or hurt. The stimulation of these points corrects the imbalance of qi and improves energy flow.

During a treatment, the practitioner will place very thin needles, that are specific for acupuncture, in specific locations for degenerative disc disease. The treatment can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. It is currently thought that acupuncture causes the release of neurochemicals, such as endorphins or serotonin, which provide pain relief and aid in the healing process.


Prolotherapy is an alternative treatment in which an injection containing natural substance is used to treat conditions, like degenerative disc disorder. It may also be referred to as regenerative injection or proliferation therapy. It is considered to be generally safe for most individuals. There have only been a small number of studies about it’s overall effectiveness.

This therapy involves the injection of substances like: dextrose, saline or sarapin, in addition to a local anesthetic. It is injected directly into the target area to trigger the body’s healing response. It may take repeated treatments before results are seen.


Biofeedback is a technique in which an individual can learn to control specific bodily functions, such as heart rate, breathing, muscle contractions, and brainwaves.
It can help an individual learn to relax muscles or reduce pain, both factors in degenerative disc disease. Biofeedback training typically starts at a doctor, therapist or physiotherapist’s office, but now there are at home devices and programs. Depending on the bodily function that an individual is looking to control, they may need to begin training in office. Biofeedback can be ideal for individuals who are looking for a noninvasive, non-medication based treatment.

Massage Therapy

Massage has been used for hundreds of years for health and well-being. There are various different types of massage which involve a variety of pressure, movements and techniques. Therapeutic massage interventions, like for degenerative disc disease, can involve: soft-tissue manipulation, fascial work, facilitated stretching, and education on self-stretching. Massage can help loosen tight muscles, assist with regaining range of motion, and release endorphins.

Registered massage therapists undergo training in different massage styles, the treatment of illnesses, and injury rehabilitation. It is important for individuals to see a registered massage therapist.

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