If you have chronic back pain or neck pain, you likely have degenerative disc disease (DDD). This degenerative spinal condition is not actually a disease: it is the normal wear and tear of the aging process of your spine. Unfortunately, as we age, our intervertebral discs (like cushions between the vertebrae in your spine) lose flexibility, elasticity, and the ability to absorb shock. When this occurs, the discs go from a flexible state that allows fluid movement to a rigid, stiff state that restricts their movements.
People with degenerative disc disease usually have persistent back pain or neck pain, with occasional flashes of sharp pain when “the back pops out.” DDD can affect any part of the spine. However, the pain usually occurs in the area where there is a gradual deterioration of a disc.
It is interesting to note that even though 80% of adults will have back pain, only 1 to 2% will need lumbar spine surgery!
Common symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease include:
- more pain when sitting for a long time, bending over, lifting something, or turning;
- less pain when walking or running;
- less pain if you change positions frequently;
- less pain when lying down.
It is essential to treat your back pain and neck pain appropriately. Seek medical attention if your pain persists and seek immediate attention if you have any of the emergency signs listed below:
Warning signs that require immediate attention:
- pain is getting worse;
- disabling pain;
- weakness, pain, numbness, or tingling in the legs;
- Loss of sphincter control.
Back pain may not just be a sign of aging. To get the best treatment, you first need to know the source of the problem.
Causes of degenerative disc disease
Degenerative disc disease can be associated with a back injury or simply a sign of aging. However, long before evidence of degenerative disc disease can be seen by imaging (computer-assisted views of your body), biochemical and cellular changes have already occurred; degenerative changes that take place gradually.
In the early stages of degenerative disc disease, there may be spontaneous or post-traumatic tears, fibrosis (hardening), and collapse of the disc that can make it difficult for you to move your back freely. In addition, you may have lower back pain and possibly leg pain if there is a pinched nerve – this feeling is often associated with degenerative disc disease.
Over time, the structure of the collagen (protein) of the fibrous annulus changes. In addition, the molecules that attract water and, therefore, fluid in the discs are reduced. Both changes reduce the discs’ ability to handle the movement of your back.
As degenerative disc disease progresses, the structures bend and warp, and bone spurs to form. It can cause a narrowing of the spinal cord and nerves space: this disorder is called spinal stenosis. Stenosis can put pressure on nerves in your lower back. The following is an illustration of lumbar spinal stenosis.
Like other parts of the body, each intervertebral disc has several nerves: the annular nerves. The inner, gelatinous nucleus pulposus does not have nerves, but the external third part of the fibrous annulus does. When the disc tears or ruptures, chemicals are released, that can irritate the nerves causing inflammation and pain. However, there may be an annular tear and no symptoms.
In addition, the hernia can put direct pressure on the nerves, causing pain in other parts of the body. It is called radiculopathy. An area of the nerves that are especially susceptible to injury is the cauda equina or “cauda equina.” The cauda equina is a bundle of nerves located at the lower end of the spine and comprises nerve roots and radicles from the entire column above.
Treatment at Dr. Munish Lal Clinic:
Although degenerative disc disease or DDD is relatively common in aging adults, it rarely necessarily involves surgery. When it warrants medical attention, most patients respond well to non-surgical forms of treatment.
The sooner you approach the Pain Management Specialist, the more likely you will have a quick recovery.
Dr. Munsih Lal’s approach is non-invasive and helps to decrease the use of anti-inflammatories for pain management.
Call now to book your appointment!