What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Runner Clenching His Back In pain

Over time, a patient’s spinal discs may deteriorate. In many cases, this is a natural part of the aging process. When these progressive changes cause pain and other issues, this condition is known as degenerative disc disease. This medical condition occurs when a patient’s spinal discs that cushion the vertebrae wear down, resulting in various complications. As the spinal discs erode, the body is less able to move, bend, and twist comfortably.

The award-winning team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics specializes in the treatment of degenerative disc disease through both surgical and non-surgical methods. Here, CNSO explains the common causes and symptoms of this condition from a medical perspective to provide further insight.

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease involves the weakening of one or more spinal discs. This condition may affect several areas of the spine. Discs often become weaker due to the following causes:

  • Age-related wear: Spinal discs have a soft core that is mostly made of water. As a patient ages, that core naturally loses moisture and becomes thinner. This bodily change results in the discs not being able to absorb shock as effectively, causing the bones to begin to rub together and other problems to occur within the spine.
  • Tears or cracks: The wear of everyday movements can take a toll on the body over time, especially the spine. It can cause small tears in the outer wall where many nerves are located. If a tear occurs near a nerve, it can be extremely painful for a patient, impacting quality of life and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Furthermore, if the outer wall breaks down, the disc’s soft core may push through, causing a bulging, herniated, or slipped disc.  
  • Injuries: Another cause of a degenerative spinal disorder is a minor or major injury to the back or neck. With repeated neck or back injuries, the process of tearing and scarring may weaken the disc wall, leading to several issues as time passes. 

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

When it comes to degenerative disc disease, one of the main symptoms is discomfort or sharp and constant pain in the back or neck. The exact pain patients feel is dependent on where the spinal disc deterioration has occurred. The pain experienced may present in many ways, such as:

  • Radiating throughout the lower back, buttocks, or upper thighs
  • Intermittent, sometimes lasting a few days or months at a time
  • Patients feeling worse when seated
  • Improving when a patient lies down or changes positions
  • Worsening when a patient bends, lifts objects, or twists

If a patient is experiencing symptoms of tingling or numbness or weakened muscles, this may be a result of the damaged discs affecting the spinal nerves. The first step toward relief is seeking medical care from a trusted team of professionals.

Diagnosis and Treatment at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics

Only a qualified medical professional can determine whether the symptoms are those of degenerative disc disease or another medical condition. At Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics, patients benefit from a multidisciplinary approach to care that includes the consideration of evidence-based, non-invasive techniques as well as surgical options.

The board-certified spinal surgeons, neurosurgeons, and non-surgical team can perform the necessary tests to properly diagnose this condition. CNSO reviews diagnostic results with each patient in detail and discusses the treatment options available. To find out more about degenerative disc disease and how patients throughout the New Jersey area can receive exceptional care and treatment from CNSO, schedule an appointment today.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics
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