What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is the gradual degeneration of the discs that serve as cushions between the vertebrae in the spine.
Degenerative disc disease can include tears in the outer disc covering, and scar tissue where the body tried to heal itself. This scar tissue has less structural integrity than the healthy tissue, and repeated tearing or scarring in more than one place can cause the entire disc to weaken. When the disc weakens, it begins to lose its water content and the ability to properly cushion and protect the spine. Weakness can also cause the disc to tear, bulge, herniate, narrow, or completely collapse, all of which can cause significant pain and instability.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
DDD can strike any of the three major sections of the spine. Symptoms pertaining to each section may include:
- Common symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease include:
- Lumbar degenerative disc disease. Problems in the lower back (lumbar) are common because your lumbar spine carries the bulk of your weight and endures a lot of everyday stress and strain. Damage in a lumbar disc can also lead to pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling anywhere from your lower back to your feet. In severe cases, a condition called “foot drop” can occur. This is characterized by the inability to bend one’s foot up. If the DDD causes impingement on the sciatic nerve, sciatica may result.
- Cervical degenerative disc disease. Cervical DDD (in your neck) is the second most common form. Degeneration symptoms in your cervical spine typically center on chronic pain that flares up significantly from time to time. Symptoms may be present in the neck, head, arms, and hands.
- Thoracic degenerative disc disease. Symptoms associated with this less-common type of degeneration usually appear in the mid or upper back, at times radiating to the chest or abdomen.
Prior to having a surgical procedure to treat your degenerative disc disease, conservative measures such as physical therapy, chiropractic, and steroid injections should be attempted. If these measures do not meaningfully relieve your pain, a North American Spine procedure may be in order.
Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
DDD has several potential causes, although the most common is natural, age-related changes in the cushioning spinal discs.
- Additional common Degenerative Disc Disease causes include:
- Age-related wear and tear
- Back or neck strain due to repetitive physical activity, poor posture, imbalances in the musculature, or heavy lifting
- Direct physical injury such as a car accident or fall
- Genetics, whether or not the symptoms appeared in your parents
DDD treatments depend on the severity of the condition and the presence of other spine conditions. If you have tried conservative treatments--such as physical therapy, chiropractic, or steroid injections--and your pain has persisted, contact us today to learn more about our treatment options.
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Connect With A Patient
Some of our former patients have been kind enough to offer to speak with back and neck pain sufferers who are looking into treatment options. We encourage you to take them up on it! After we determine a treatment plan, we’ll connect you with a past patient who had a similar condition and procedure.Connect with a Patient