Degenerative disc disease isn’t actually a disease but an age-related condition that occurs when the spinal discs break down or deteriorate. This leads to intense pain. You may experience pain, numbness, and weakness that radiates all the way down your leg. The rubbery discs that are in the spine allow for bending and flexing of the back and act as shock absorbers. However, they get worn out overtime and don’t offer the same level of protection.
Even though aging is the main cause of degenerative disc disease, the discs could deteriorate faster if there is an older injury involved as well. You could have suffered a traumatic event or a repetitive and stressful motion that may have aggravated the discs to degenerate. This is mainly because degenerative disc disease affects some levels of the spine and not the entire spine. The condition can’t be reversed but stopping or slowing down the process can help add several years to the spine.
The discs may also start to bulge because of small cracks on the outside of the shell, which can contribute to the degeneration process.
The Symptoms of Disc Degeneration
Disc degeneration may not show any kind of symptoms, and the pain can be so intense that the individual may struggle to continue their daily activities. The condition damages the spine at first, but over time, its symptoms may start affecting other parts of the body, since they get worse with age. You can suffer from mild to severe discomfort, while the condition can lead to osteoarthritis as it causes stiffness and pain in the back. Weakness and pain in the back are the most common symptoms.
If the degenerative disc disease is affecting the lower back, you may experience pain in buttocks, which will radiate towards the thighs, and you may also experience numbness or tingling in your feet and legs. However, if the degenerative disease is in the neck area, the pain can be spread to the hand, arm, and shoulder. The spine could also be unstable, which can cause muscle spasms in the neck or lower back as the body will try to stabilize the spine.
The Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
The spinal discs, also known as the intervertebral discs offer to pad between the vertebrae and the spine. They are made of fibrocartilage tissue and have an elastic structure, which helps them cushion stress when there is weight placed on the spine or when it moves. The daily stresses on the spine start taking a toll as people begin aging, and this can lead to damaged discs in the back. The main causes of degenerative disc disease are down to:
Tiny cracks or tears may start developing on the outside of the disc. The gelatinous and soft material on the inside will start leaking through the tears or cracks, which will result in the rupturing or bulging of the disc, and it may even break into fragments.
Loss of Fluid
The spinal discs consist of nearly 90% fluid but as the body ages this fluid content decreases, which makes the discs thinner. There is also a smaller distance between the vertebrae and they become less effective as shock absorbers or cushions.
The spine becomes less stable when there is less padding between the vertebrae.
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