Wear and tear on your spinal discs and joints is an inevitable part of aging. Disc degeneration is normal and, in itself, not a problem. Unfortunately, as a result of this degeneration, your discs, which normally function as shock absorbers between your vertebrae (spine bones), may stop working effectively. Also, bone spurs (small, bony protrusions on the surface of your bones) may develop. The malfunctioning discs and bone spurs can put pressure on or pinch adjacent nerves or the spinal cord, producing a very painful situation. Their progressive deterioration and problems associated with the process are known as degenerative disc disease.
What are the common symptoms of degenerative disc disease?
An aching, deep pain in the lower back which sometimes radiates to the legs is the most common symptom of degenerative disc disease. A stiff back in the morning may be the first symptom you notice. For the most part, degenerative disc disease is centered in the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions, but it can occur anywhere along the spine. Lower back or neck pain may intensify when you’ve been sitting or standing for long time.
And specific activities like lifting heavy objects repeatedly can become more painful once degenerative disc disease has started to develop. Severe bouts of pain may persist for a couple of days or even for several months before they diminish, then continue on as milder, chronic pain over a prolonged period of time. On the other hand, many degenerative disc disease patients are not aware they have the disease because, in their case, there are no painful symptoms.
What is the cause of degenerative disc disease?
For the most part, degenerative disc disease is caused by wear and tear on the body Degenerative Disc Disease which naturally occurs with aging. Over time, the spine’s bones become less flexible and its ligaments thicken, placing more and more strain on your back. This, coupled with an injury or lifting repeatedly, is often enough to trigger degenerative disc disease.
The discs that separate each vertebra (spine bone) become thinner over time and lose their ability to provide proper cushioning and support. As a result, the vertebrae are forced to change the way they move. The discs may bulge or leak the cushioning fluid they contain and come in painful contact with spinal nerves.
Is degenerative disc disease dangerous?
Discs differ from muscles in that they have a minimal supply of blood. This limits their ability to repair themselves automatically when damage occurs. Untreated degenerative disc disease can become so painful and debilitating it seriously undermines your quality of life. If neglected, ongoing severe pain, difficulty walking or standing, and numbness or weakness in the legs may become increasingly persistent or even permanent.
What factors increase the likelihood of your suffering from degenerative disc disease?
Most of us at some point in our lives will experience lower back pain due to degenerative disc disease.
Obesity, smoking, lifting heavy objects repeatedly, and heredity may increase the odds of disc degeneration progressing more rapidly.
How is degenerative disc disease diagnosed?
To identify your degenerative disc disease accurately, your doctor will consider your medical history, conduct a physical exam, and employ various diagnostic testing techniques. Several kinds of imaging technology are often used to form diagnosis. X-rays offer various views of the bones in the spine.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides a way to see soft tissue, while CT scans reveal both spinal bones and soft tissue. Other ways to diagnose the causes of back pain include discography and myelography. Discography assesses pain levels, while myelography evaluates the ability of the spine to bear a patient’s weight.
How is degenerative disc disease treated?
Frequently, many of the symptoms associated with disc degeneration can be managed successfully by taking simple measures. These include bed rest; anti-inflammatory medications, e.g., ibuprofen; or steroids treatments. However, if these options provide no relief after a few months, surgery may be required.
How common is degenerative disc disease?
The number one cause of lost work and medical disability in the US is lower back pain. Its estimated annual cost based on workmen’s compensation benefits, medical expenses, and lost production is in the tens of billions of dollars.
As many as four out of every five Americans will suffer from a back- pain episode during their lifetime. Once they reach age 50, 85% of Americans will experience the symptoms of disc degeneration.
If you or a loved one lives in the Orange County area and are experiencing chronic low back pain, degenerative disc disease may be the issue. Let the California Pain Network help you. The Network connects those in pain with pain management Orange County trusts.
Simply fill out the contact form or call (714) 261-9131 for assistance today!