What to Know About Degenerative Disc Disease
The body is made up of hundreds of parts that work together to keep you moving and active. As you age, you may find that your different body parts and back ache a bit more than they used to. But what can cause this unexpected new pain? In your back, you have a spinal cord that is made up of vertebrae and spinal discs. These discs help absorb shock between the bones as you move, so you can stay flexible and bend or twist as needed.
When you grow older, these spinal discs will begin to show signs of wear and tear. Many will not experience any pain as this deterioration occurs. But for others, the wearing of the spinal discs can cause significant pain. Degenerative disc disease is when these normal changes in the spinal discs cause pain.
Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
Despite being labeled a disease, degenerative disc disease is, in fact, a condition where damaged spinal discs cause pain.
Spinal discs are made of a soft inner core containing proteins and a tough outer layer with nerves. With regular activity, it’s normal for your spinal discs to deteriorate over time. The most common factor that contributes to degenerative disc disease is age, as well as:
- Disc Drying Out: Discs are primarily made of water. As you age, your discs lose that water. With the loss of water, the disc loses necessary padding between the vertebrae. These thinner discs can’t absorb shocks as well and can eventually cause pain.
- Disc Cracks: Regular daily activity or high-impact sports can cause small tears in the outer disc wall, causing back pain. If this outer shell breaks down, the soft core may protrude through these gaps, causing a slipped or herniated disc.
- Injuries: Significant back injuries can cause swelling, soreness or instability in your spinal discs, which can cause severe pain.
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment Options
To properly diagnose degenerative disc disease, your doctor will likely evaluate your medical history and perform a physical examination, noting your overall symptoms. Your doctor will also ask:
- When the pain began and which parts of your spine are painful.
- If you’ve had previous spine injuries.
- If the pain has spread to other areas of your body.
Once your physician has determined your back pain is the cause of degenerative disc disease, they’ll present you with a few treatment options, including artificial disc replacements, surgical intervention or noninvasive treatments like acupuncture, back braces and pain management solutions.
Preventing Degenerative Disc Disease
Having a healthy, solid spinal cord is crucial to your overall daily comfort. So how can you prevent developing degenerative disc disease? Like most medical conditions, being proactive and cooperating with prevention techniques is the best solution. Consider these lifestyle changes to prevent degenerative disease:
- Quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake.
- Maintain a good posture while sitting and standing.
- Enjoy a healthy diet complete with whole grains and lean meat proteins.
- Regularly exercise to promote healthy bone growth.
- Take vitamins like calcium, iron and zinc and other supplements to reduce risks.
Feeling Unpleasant Back Pain? Visit Spine Institute of North America Today
If you’re feeling an uncomfortable ache in your back and suspect you may have degenerative disc disease, don’t hesitate to call the friendly, knowledgeable physicians at Spine Institute of North America. We pride ourselves on always offering a personalized and honest approach, paired with effective treatment options to improve your quality of life and reduce any pain you’re experiencing. Our team happily provides services for residents throughout the East Windsor area in New Jersey and beyond.
Learn more about degenerative disc disease by calling us today at 609-371-9100, or complete our online scheduling form to request an appointment.
This content was medically reviewed by Baher Yanni, M.D, on June 25th, 2019.