Degenerative disc disease; is a condition that affects the discs between the vertebrae in the spine, which are the cushions between the the bones of the spine.
As you age, these discs naturally wear down and lose their ability to cushion the bones in the spine, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility at the lower back.
Bulge discs are soft, gel-like cushions that sit between the vertebrae (bones) in the spine.
They act as shock absorbers and help to keep the spine flexible.
As people age, the discs can lose water, become thinner, crack, or bulge out of place, leading to pain, stiffness, numbness, or weakness in the neck, back, arms, or legs.
Degenerative disc disease causes:
The exact cause of degenerative disc disease is not known, but it may be influenced by factors such as:
⦁ Aging: The discs in the spine naturally break down as we age.
⦁ Genetics: Some people are more likely to develop DDD than others due to their genes.
⦁ Injury: Injuries to the spine can increase the risk of developing DDD.
⦁ Occupation: Jobs that require repetitive bending or lifting can increase the risk of developing DDD.
⦁ Obesity: Excess weight puts extra stress on the spine, which can lead to DDD.
⦁ Smoking, and physical activity.
The condition is very common and affects most people over 40 years old to some degree, however, not everyone with degenerative disc disease has symptoms or needs treatment.
How does degenerative disc disease occur?
Degenerative disc disease occurs when the discs in the spine break down and lose their ability to cushion the vertebrae due to age, wear and tear, or injury.
As the discs break down, they can become thinner and less hydrated, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility in the spine, and can lead to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility in the spine.
How is degenerative disc disease diagnosed?
The diagnosis of degenerative disc disease is based on the medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests of the patient.
The imaging tests may include X-rays, MRI, CT scan, or bone scan to show the extent and location of the disc damage.
Sometimes, other tests such as blood tests, nerve conduction studies, or spinal injections may be done to rule out other conditions or identify the source of pain.
The symptoms of degenerative disc disease:
⦁ Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
⦁ Radiates down the buttocks and lower back.
⦁ Difficulty standing, sitting, walking, or bending.
⦁ Muscle spasms or tightness in the neck or back.
⦁ Reduced range of motion or flexibility in the spine.
⦁ Weakness in the arms or legs.
Degenerative disc disease treatment options:
The treatment of degenerative disc disease depends on the symptoms and goals of the patient. The main aims of treatment are to relieve pain, improve function, and prevent further damage. The treatment options may include:
⦁ Medications: Painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, or nerve blockers may be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation.
⦁ Physical therapy: Exercises, stretches, massage, heat therapy, or electrical stimulation may be recommended to improve strength, flexibility, posture, and blood flow in the affected area.
⦁ Lifestyle changes: Quitting smoking, losing weight, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding activities that worsen the symptoms may help to slow down the progression of degenerative disc disease and improve overall health.
⦁ Alternative therapies: Acupuncture, chiropractic care, yoga, meditation, or herbal remedies may be tried to relieve pain and stress associated with degenerative disc disease.
⦁ Surgery: In some cases, when conservative treatments fail to provide adequate relief or when there is severe nerve compression or spinal instability, surgery may be considered. The type of surgery depends on the specific problem and may involve removing part of the disc or bone (discectomy or laminectomy), fusing two or more vertebrae together (spinal fusion), or inserting an artificial disc or spacer (disc replacement or interspinous device).