Degenerative Disc Disease
The cushions between our spinal bones are called intervertebral discs. These discs are made up a soft inner core and a tough outer wall. As babies, the discs in our spine are mostly made up of water. However, as we age, our discs become thinner as they lose water and begin to dry out.
Tiny tears of the outer wall of the discs accumulate over the years due to minor injuries. If these tears occur near a nerve, our bodies feel pain. These tiny tears can become larger cracks if the disc continues to break down, causing the soft core to push through the cracks resulting in a disc bulge or a disc herniation.
Degenerative Disc Disease is more common in cigarette smokers, patients who are overweight, and patients who engage in heavy physical work (such as heavy lifting). Degenerative Disc Disease is most common in the neck (cervical region) and low back (lumbar region).
We Help Patients Avoid Neck & Back Surgery
The Most Common Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) symptoms vary greatly depending on the severity of your condition. Some patients experience their symptoms 24 hours a day without a minute of relief, while others experience symptoms that come and go. The intensity and frequency of your symptoms will vary greatly depending on the phase of degeneration that your disc is in. A radiograph can be helpful in determining if you are in Phase 1, 2, or 3, but the gold standard for diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease is a MRI. DDD is often associated with Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) as symptoms can overlap. Here are the most common symptoms for this condition:
- Mild to severe low back pain that radiates into the buttocks, and thighs
- Mild to severe neck pain that radiates into the arms and hands
- Pain that lasts a few days to a few months that comes and goes
- Pain worsened by sitting
- Pain worsened by lifting or bending and twisting of the waist
- Pain decreases when walking or moving
- Pain decreases when laying down or by changing positions often
- Tingling and numbness into the arms and hands
- Tingling and numbness into the thighs, legs, and feet
- Leg or arm muscle weakness (caused by nerve root damage)
How We Help Degenerative Disc Disease
The information we gain from your consultation and exam helps us determine if you are a candidate for care in our office. You can expect to have improved movement, decreased neck and back pain and increased muscle strength. If you are a candidate, you can become more active and have a better quality of life within weeks.
If you have had radiographs or MRIs taken before, please bring them with you to your appointment for our doctors to review. We see many patients that have failed other treatments such as prescription medications, injections, physical therapy, and even surgery.
Narrowing and flattening of the discs makes them less shock-absorbing. However, rather than simply treating the symptoms, our doctors provide a long-term strategy to not only get the relief that you seek right away, but also prevent future spinal decay and degeneration. Your discs may never be textbook normal again, but being proactive with your health can definitely help prevent further disc damage.
Want an expert on your health team? Call us at (619) 313-5403.