Located between the vertebrae, the spinal discs are made of a tough fibrous outer layer that holds in a jelly like core that allows the spine to bend, twist and flex. The discs also help to evenly disperse the pressure that is placed on the spine when walking, running, lifting weights or bending, much like a shock absorber in a car.
Degeneration occurs when the disc begins to dry out, losing its ability to stay flexible and absorb shocks effectively. The tough outer layer of the disc becomes more prone to cracks or breaks that can cause pain. These cracks in the outer layer can also increase the risk of a disc herniation. As the disc loses its moisture it also reduced the space between vertebrae. This change in height may lead to compression of nerves exiting the spinal column.
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is often asymptomatic. If symptoms occur, they can vary depending on multiple factors. Some of the most common symptoms can include:
- Impingement of nerves
- Formation of bone spurs (osteophytes)
- Increase risk of disc herniation
Treatment of Degenerative disc disease in and of itself is generally conservative and can include the use of medications, such as anti inflammatory medication, pain medication and muscle relaxers. Physical therapy may also be employed if the physician believes it would be helpful. Chiropractic and massage modalities may also be helpful in elevating the discomfort associated with this disorder.
Secondary phenomena from disc degeneration, such as pinched nerves and instability (which may include spondylolisthesis and scoliosis) occasionally require more aggressive treatment. This may include injections or surgery, depending on multiple factors. These discussions require careful consideration with your spine specialist.
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If you would like more information about degenerative disc disease treatment options at Austin Spine or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled surgeons, please call our office at (512) 347-7463.