What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease, despite its name, is not exactly a disease. DDD occurs as the discs between our vertebrae deteriorate due to natural wear and tear or as the result of injuries, causing pain. Spinal discs act as shock-absorbing cushions that allow for the healthy bending and flexing of the back. Over time, these discs may become worn and lose their strength. The most commonly affected discs are the ones located near the lumbar region.
Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms
Degenerative disc disease symptoms can range from minimal to severe enough to incapacitate a person. While these symptoms generally start in the spinal regions, they can also spread to other parts of the body as aging progresses. Many people report symptoms as intermittent, worsening when sitting, bending, twisting, and lifting. Other people find relief when changing positions or laying down. The affected disks may also impact the nearby nerves, causing the tingling and numbing sensation in the extremities. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms include:
- Neck pain
- Lower back pain
- Tingling & numbness
- Aching hands, arms, legs & feet
Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
Intervertebral discs, the ones located between each of our vertebrae, are in charge of providing shock absorption and preventing our bones from rubbing against one another. As we age, these discs wear out and deteriorate, lessening their cushioning abilities and causing pain. The discs located near the lower back are most affected as they bear the most weight and pressure. The second most common pain is reported in the neck area, which can radiate to the shoulders and arms.
Primarily, intervertebral discs are made up of gelatinous fluids for better shock absorption. This fluid decreases over time, thinning out the disks. The structure of the discs may also become compromised due to tears causing bulging. In some cases, the damaged discs may also affect the surrounding nerves, often causing tingling and numbness. Risk factors for disc degeneration include:
- Excessive weight
- Straining physical work
DDD Diagnosis & Treatment
Specialists can employ various methods and tests to diagnose degenerative disc disease. The first steps would include a thorough study of the individual’s medical history and a physical examination. Consequently, physicians may order different forms of imaging such as x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans capable of showing impacted discs. We recommend keeping track of your symptom’s severity, frequency, and duration to facilitate diagnosis. The treatment of DDD will vary depending on the symptoms. While people with milder pain may benefit from less aggressive solutions, those with severe symptoms require more advanced methods to experience relief. Some of the treatments include, but are not limited to:
- Physical therapy
- Cold & heat application
- Over-the-counter medications
- Prescription medications
- Epidural steroid injections
- Transforaminal epidural steroid injections
- Spinal cord stimulation
- Intrathecal pain pumps
Avoiding overexerting the spine and actively practicing exercise sequences that strengthen the body’s core is critical in preventing degenerative disc disease. If you are currently experiencing DDD symptoms, our dedicated team of experts can create the best pain management plan for your condition. We offer various treatments to relieve your pain and help improve your quality of life.