Degenerative Disc Disease

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative-disc-disease is a typical age-related condition involving normal in the discs between the vertebrae of the spinal axis. With age, the discs suffer from wear and tear, leading to deterioration and eventual breakdown. As these discs are the cushions between the vertebrae, the destruction of the padding will lead to grinding of the small b9nes against each other, leading to excruciating pain. 

According to the experts, the term is logically a misnomer, as it is not actually a disease. It is a natural occurrence that is bound to happen in every human being with ageing. It's just that in some people, the degradation will be much higher, and so, the pain will be more.

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Degenerative Disc Disease is a typical age-related condition involving normal in the discs between the vertebrae of the spinal axis.

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

The initial symptoms of the degenerative disc disease can be a sharp and constant pain in the back or neck. And then, the following symptoms may start showing up gradually. 

  • A persistent pain that radiates through the buttocks, legs, arms and even hands. 
  • Gradual loss of motion in the spine. 
  • Pain worsens after twisting or bending movements.
  • The pain can come and go. The intensity can be severe or nagging and can last for a few days to a few months. 
  • You feel much better when you lie down or change positions
  • Tingling sensation or numbness in the legs or feet. 

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease:  

The spinal disks have a soft inner core substance and a tougher outer membrane that protects the core. There can be some changes in the disc leading to the condition.

  • Drying out: when you are born, the vertebral discs mostly comprise of water. With ageing, the discs lose water and get thinner. The fluid is responsible for absorbing the shocks and minimizing the impact on the bones. But if the fluid dries up, then the padding or cushion will not function as before. And it can lead to a painful condition.
  • Cracks: Minor injuries and daily stress will cause tiny tears in the strong outer wall of the discs. At these points, there will be nerves. So the tears near the nerves can be painful. If the outer wall breaks down, then the soft inner core will squeeze out through the cracks. The disc may slip out of the place or bulge, leading to a herniated disc.

Other problems include: 

  • A severe breakdown of cartilage that provides cushion to the joints
  • Narrowing of the spinal cord
  • Bulging disc or herniated disc. 


When to See the Physiotherapist:

If you suddenly feel the shooting pain and it lasts in mild or moderate intensity for many days, you should immediately visit a doctor. The specialist can suggest the necessary tests to diagnose whether you are having degenerative-disc-disease. Back pain is so common nowadays that you tend to ignore the issue unless the pain turns severe. But medical consultation is crucial if the pain is recurring or bothersome.

Risk Factors for Degenerative Disc Disease:

When it comes to degenerative-disc-disease, age is the greatest risk factor. The shrinking of the discs is a natural physical process with growing age. The cushiony support minimizes as you get older. Disc degeneration is common in every adult above 60 years of age. But not all conditions cause pain. 

You have a comparatively increased risk of developing the disease if you have a significant injury at the back. Repetitive activities at work can also elevate the risk factor. 

Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity or overweight
  • Car accidents
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Medical conditions like cancer and arthritis
  • Strenuous physical exercise, especially when you do them incorrectly. 

How to Prevent Degenerative Disc Disease: 

You cannot stop the natural degeneration process. But you can definitely follow a few steps to prevent or minimize the impact of degenerative-disc-disease. 

  • Exercise: Regular exercise will increase the strength of the bones and also aid in weight control. Core-strengthening exercises and flexibility training will help to control the quick deterioration due to degenerative-disc-disease. 
  • Diet: include lots of Calcium and Vitamin D in your diet. These will help to improve the health of the bone. 
  • Quit smoking: Why elevate chances of the degenerative-disc-disease when you can minimize the risk b quitting smoking?
  • Correct posture: Posture correction is essential while sitting and standing to ensure that there is no further spinal deformation. 
  • Careful lifting: Try to use the legs while lifting instead of exerting pressure on the spinal cord. 
  • Control movement: Avoid bending and lifting at the same time. It will exert a sudden awkward pressure on the spinal column that will cause pain. 

Treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease:

The standard treatments for degenerative-disc-disease include:

  • Heat and cold therapy
  • Over-the-counter medicines for pain relief.
  • Prescribed pain-killers
  • Physiotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Stretching exercises

Related conditions: 

If you have an advanced form of degenerative-disc-disease, then you are more likely to develop osteoarthritis in the back. As there will be no cushion between the vertebrae, the bones will suffer degradation due to friction. You will feel stiffness in the back that will limit your activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the chief cause of degenerative-disc-disease?
The degenerating disc will eventually break down completely and leave no space between your vertebrae. It will result in movement impairment, nerve damage, and pain.
2. Why is degenerative-disc-disease highly painful?
There are two basic reasons for the excruciating pain associated with the degenerative disc condition. Inflammation due to the leakage of the inflammatory protein from the disc space can cause swelling around the spinal structure. Abnormal micromotion instability due to degeneration of the disc's outer layer is the other factor contributing to pain.
3. What does the pain of degenerative-disc-disease feel like?
There will be a painful ache at the site of the damaged disc, which is a common symptom of the disease. The pain can rapidly spread to the groin, buttocks, and upper thighs. It will be a feeling of dullness, mild to severe constant pain.

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