DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE

Degenerative disc disease affects millions of people in the US per year and is one of the most common causes of chronic back and neck pain in spinal patients.

Discs are the structures found between each of your spinal vertebrae and are made up of two layers; a harder outer layer (fibrous ring) and a gel-filled core (central pulp).

When your spinal discs start to wear down, they cannot properly absorb shock to your spine, which can cause pain over time.

This condition is most common among people under the age of 60 and occurs when spinal discs naturally lose their density through aging.


How do I know if I have degenerative disc disease?

As we age, there are changes that our spine goes through, including the wearing down of our vertebral discs. These changes include a loss of disc fluid in the disc’s core, which causes the discs to thin out and lose flexibility; sometimes the outer layer of the disc wears out, which can lead to disc “leakage” and herniated discs.

This makes the movement of the spine more difficult and ultimately painful. People who suffer from obesity, smokers, and people who perform strenuous activity are often more susceptible to degenerative disc disease.

Your symptoms may vary, but those who suffer from degenerative disc disease typically experience:

• Neck or back pain
• Pain in the arms, legs, or buttocks that usually gets worse with more movement
• Radiating numbness into the extremities
• Weakness in the limbs

Pain from degenerative disc disease may also lessen over time because much of the nerve-related pain is caused by inflammatory proteins. When these proteins are “burned out,” you may experience some pain relief. But because the spine naturally ages and weakens, it is important to continue to treat any pain symptoms, especially because the disease is chronic and can cause other spine conditions.

Which treatment is right for me?

Consider scheduling an appointment with Alexander Bone and Spine if you are experiencing chronic or worsening conditions.

It can be helpful to keep a record of the pain you’re experiencing. Your diagnosis is based on a physical exam and comprehensive medical history review, and we will also want to discuss what kind of experience you’ve had with your conditions.

Dr. Alexander and his team will also want to know if you have a family history of the disease, or if you’ve experienced any recent trauma.

Treatment of degenerative disc disease is usually handled conservatively at the Southern Laser Spine. Some treatments include:

• Cold and hot therapies (like ice packs or a heating pad)
• Pain relievers
• Activities like stretching may also relieve pain

Degenerative disc disease can cause other conditions to arise, like disc herniation or spinal stenosis. If you find that your condition develops further, you may require other treatments for relief.


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