Degenerative disc disease is a term used to describe the changes that occur in your spinal discs as you age. This disease usually occurs in the lumbar region (lower back) and cervical region (the neck) but can also be found anywhere along the spine. Disc degeneration can put pressure on the spinal cords and nerves which can lead to pain and may affect nerve function. There are many who experience degenerative disc disease but never suffer from any pain
Spinal disc are soft, compressible discs that separate the vertebrae and serve as shock absorbers between the bones of the spine. These disc are designed to help the back stay flexible and sturdy in various ranges of motion.
With age our spinal discs breaks down which, in some cases, results in degenerative disc disease. Some changes in age that may assist in the spinal disc breakdown include:
- Tiny cracks and tears in the annulus (outer layer) of the disc. In this instance the nucleus (disc) may be forced out through tears causing the disc to rupture, bulge or break into fragments.
- Loss of fluid in discs that reduced the ability of the disc to behave as shock absorbers causing them to be less flexible.
Sudden injuries such as a car accident or fall can also begin the degeneration process. When there is less padding between the spaces in the vertebrae the spine becomes less stable. Osteophytes (bone spurs) are a reaction by the body and can put pressure on the spinal nerve roots which generally results in pain and noticeably affected nerve function.
The most common symptom of degenerative disc disease are neck or back pains but there are many sufferers who experience no pain at all. The levels of pain are not directly related to the severity of disc damage. The pain is most prevalent in the location of the affected disc. An affected disc in the lower back usually results to pain in the buttocks and leg as well, while pain in the neck area most often results to pain in the neck or arm. Many people notice that pain often gets worse with movements such as twisting, bending or reaching. There have been cases were a numbness or tingling was experienced in the leg or arm.
A physical examination and medical history can be used to diagnose degenerative disc disease. Your doctor should inquire about symptoms, previous treatment or any other illnesses, check pain in range of motion, look for areas of tenderness and check for fractures, infection or tumors.
- Start with cold and hot compresses. Apply a cold compress to the affected area for 20 minutes. After, apply the hot compress to the affected area for the allotted time. The Healthy Back Institute offers a state of the art heating pad with infrared heat that penetrates deeply to affected area
- Take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen’s Advil, Bayer and Motrin, to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- You may want to consider having a massage to relieve tension and promote blood flow to affected area.
In some severe cases surgery may be necessary. If you have any questions or would like more information please visit losethebackpain.com.