Our spinal discs act as shock absorbers between each set of two adjacent vertebrae in our back, allowing for flexibility and range of motion of our torso. The discs are made of two different types of cartilage: a tough exterior called the annulus and a soft interior called the nucleus. As we get older, the discs start to dry out and suffer degeneration.
When the annulus of disc cracks or degrades, the soft nucleus can leak out. This puts pressure against the surrounding nerves in the spinal cord, thereby causing irritation and pain. Disc degeneration is one of the most common causes of neck pain and back pain.
When disc degeneration occurs naturally, this is called degenerative disc disease. It is actually not a disease per se but is rather associated with the natural aging process and the normal wear-and-tear on the spinal discs after many years of pressure in the back.
While everyone’s spinal discs will show signs of wear eventually, not everyone will necessarily be diagnosed with disc degeneration. Let’s talk about this back condition and what can be done about it.
How Does Degenerative Disc Disease Happen?
Because the spinal discs are made of cartilage, they have a low blood supply. Therefore, when a disc suffers an injury, it cannot repair itself as most other areas of the body can.
Symptoms of degenerative disc disease are:
- Back pain that comes and goes in varying degrees
- Limited range of motion in the back
- Burning pain
- Shooting pain
- Pain in the neck
- Lower back pain that radiates into the buttocks and thighs
- Pain that radiates into the arms, hands, and legs
- Leg muscle weakness
- Foot drop
- Pain that worsens when sitting or bending
The development of degenerative disc disease can be accelerated by certain activities, such as sports, which can cause back injury. If you have this condition, you may feel better when you are walking thanks to the reduced pressure on your spine. Sitting down can actually make it feel worse. Lying down and frequently changing positions can also help to alleviate the discomfort.
If you have been experiencing neck pain or lower back pain and it suddenly goes away after a few months, you may want to have yourself evaluated by a doctor. This is one of the symptoms of degenerative disc disease.
Treatment for Disc Degeneration
The symptoms of degenerative disc disease can be managed successfully with physical therapy and medication. Although the condition may cause temporary disability, it does not usually result in permanent disability – and most cases do not require surgery.
However, it’s important to know that disc degeneration can also lead to the development of other spinal conditions. Degenerative disc disease can increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis of the spine and spinal stenosis. Treatment therefore usually includes interventional pain management techniques.
Back Pain Relief in Boca Raton
Our medical pain management professionals here at Kamerlink Pain Institute are experienced in helping patients who have back pain. Our goal is to ensure that you do not suffer any longer from your condition.
To schedule a consultation with Dr. Kamerlink, call us today at (561) 404-7667. We look forward to helping you achieve a more pain-free lifestyle again.