Degenerative disc disease is not as much a disease as it is a name for the changes that can happen to the spine as we age. Our discs are made of a tough, rubbery exterior and a soft interior. They sit between the vertebrae to act as shock absorbers. As we age, the spinal discs begin to degenerate. This can cause herniated discs, bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and osteoarthritis.
The degeneration of spinal discs may cause no symptoms at all, and symptoms depend on each patient and the severity of their case. Pain may occur at the site of the affected disc in the back or neck. As the pain is often caused by compressed nerves, this pain can also travel to other areas of the body like the buttocks, arms, and legs. Numbness and tingling in the arms and legs may also be experienced. Pain can range from mild to severe and debilitating.
As mentioned previously, our spines can degenerate as a natural part of aging. Tears in the tougher outer layer of the disc are common as we grow older. and when the discs begin to lose fluid, they become smaller and less flexible. In addition to aging, other factors that may come into play, including obesity, smoking, repeated physical work, and injury.
Pain caused by degeneration is often treated with hot or cold packs and an anti-inflammatory medication. When disc degeneration causes problems like herniated or bulging discs, spinal stenosis, or osteoarthritis, other forms of treatment may be beneficial.
This may include physical therapy, stretching, and in some cases, surgery. While degenerative disc disease is a natural part of aging, there are things you can do to prevent pain and stay healthy. If you are experiencing frequent back or neck pain, be sure to visit our office for an examination so we can create a treatment plan for you.