What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative Disk Disease (DDD) occurs in many people during the normal aging process. It is also referred to as “arthritis of the back.”
During the aging process, our discs work as “shock absorbents.” These shock absorbers are located between the vertebral bodies start losing their elasticity. Therefore, the vertebral body may collapse down onto another. The collapsed body may compress nerve roots or the spinal cord. Thus, causing back pain and/or leg pain.
Almost everyone’s disks will break down over time. However, not everyone feels pain. So, if the reason you are in pain is from worn-out spinal discs, you have degenerative disc disease.
Symptoms of the Disease
Exact symptoms depend on where the disk has become weakened and what changes have been down. However, common signs of pain are as follows:
- Aching lower back pain.
- Back stiffness.
- Radiating pain descending into the legs.
- The pain usually worsened with activity or prolonged sitting or standing.
- Normal changes in discs.
- Trauma (injury).
- Repetitive lifting.
- Smoking, obesity, and hereditary factors also lead to advanced degeneration.
What is the Cause?
As we age, our discs change in ways that may cause the disease, such as:
Discs dry 0ut. When you are born, your disks are made up of water. As we age, these discs become thinner and lose water. And, flat disks are not able to absorb shocks. Therefore, the water loss means less cushion between the vertebrae. Sometimes, this can lead to spinal problems that may cause pain.
Cracked Discs. We put our bodies through a lot of stress. And these everyday movements and minor injuries cause tiny tears in the outer wall. This outer wall contains nerves, and when a tear occurs near a nerve it is painful. On the other hand, if that outer wall breaks down, the disk’s softcore can push through the cracks. Therefore, causing a disc to slip or bulge, called a herniated disc. And, this can also affect nearby nerves.
Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease
Depending on the severity of your degenerative disc disease will determine treatment. Your doctor will most likely start you off with one of the following treatments:
Medication. Some over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and aspirin can help fight inflammation. In fact, they will ease pain and help reduce swelling.
Sometimes, the disease may cause muscle spasms, your doctors might prescribe something for the spasms too.
Physical Therapy. When we move around, sometimes it can do us a lot of good, even if we are injured. And a physical therapist can teach you specific movements that will help with pain relief and healing. Furthermore, it’s important to make the muscles in your neck and back stronger and more flexible. This will allow for more spinal support.
Steroid Injections. Injections have strong medications in them to ease pain, swelling, and inflammation. There are many different types of steroid injections, and your physician will choose the best one for your exact injury.
If you suspect degenerative disc disease, or if you are experiencing back pain without relief, call us at 888-409-8006. Our top spine specialists are here to help!