What are the Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease describes the deterioration of the cushioning intervertebral discs between individual vertebrae. Physicians refer to this condition as spondylosis. Causes of degenerative disc disease include trauma, repetitive stress, and disease, but it most commonly occurs as a result of the normal aging process. Over time, the discs become weaker and wear and tear caused by lifetime of twisting and turning take their toll. The cartilage that forms much of the intervertebral discs likewise changes its structure and loses cushioning ability. Whatever the cause, degeneration of the disc tissue makes the disc more susceptible to herniation, or rupturing (called a herniated disc). Associated symptoms of degenerative disc disease include pain and restricted range of motion. Without intervention the condition is progressive, with the degenerative process ultimately involving the spinal joints, called facet joints.
Any part of the spine can be affected by degenerative disc disease, and the condition is often identified by the part of the spine that is involved. Lumbar degenerative disc disease refers to disc degeneration in the lower back, while cervical degenerative disc disease refers to degenerative disc disease in the neck. Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of lower back pain, also referred to as lumbago. Lumbar disc degeneration most commonly occurs between the ages of 30 and 50. In addition to age, genetics may also play a role in causing degenerative disc disease.
As our orthopedic surgeons tell patients at New Jersey Spine Specialists, you can’t do much about getting older, but you can still take steps to minimize the onset and impact of degenerative disc disease. Maintain a healthy weight, practice good nutrition, don’t smoke and avoid activities that can result in back and neck injuries. If you already have symptoms of degenerative changes, sometimes specific exercises for degenerative disc disease can resolve symptoms without further treatment. Other therapy options range from medications to steroidal injections and, in severe cases, surgery. Today, minimally invasive spinal surgery procedures for treating degenerative disc disease are much more effective and less invasive than even in the recent past.