DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE
Degenerative Disc Disease is a disease that causes the discs in the spine to break down or deteriorate.
The spine is composed of vertebrae, a series of bones, the spinal canal, and rubber-like discs stacked on top of one another. In the center of the spine, you will find the spinal cord, which is comprised of a bundle of nerves that provides the function to your arms and legs.
Each of the discs in your spine act as shock absorbers between each vertebrae helping to limit damage to the spinal tissues and bones. These discs are made of two parts. The nucleus pulposus is a gelatinous liquid-like center and the annulus fibrosus is a tough elastic band that circles the soft center.
Degenerative disc disease can occur in any part of the spine, however, it most frequently develops in the lower back. With age, the liquid-like center of the disc can begin to dry out, putting more pressure and friction on the disc. As the disc deteriorates, it can have an impact on the structure of the vertebrae.
This type of change can lead to additional pressure on the spinal cord and nerves and can lead to other conditions, including:
Symptoms of degenerative disc disease depend on the location affected and the severity. Symptoms can come on suddenly and with a lot of intensity or they can be mild and gradual.
To diagnose, your doctor will perform a clinical exam and ask you a number of questions regarding your symptoms. Your doctor may look for abnormalities via a physical examination, X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
When appropriate, non-surgical intervention is the first choice and may include:
1. Medications (anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, steroids)
2. Physical Therapy (core strengthening, stretching, soft tissue release)
3. Steroid Injections (epidural, facet blocks)
If conservative treatment fails, surgery may be recommended to treat the underlying condition.