What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
The term “degenerative disc disease” can confuse many patients. While it sounds like it is a progressive disease, it is actually a description of the physical condition that is causing your pain.
Discs in your spine provide cushioning for the bones around them making daily movement comfortable. When the discs begin to degenerate by tearing, they lose elasticity, density, and fluid volume. The fluid inside the disc can seep out, resulting in a lower ability to absorb shock. This degeneration creates pain in your back and is shown as various symptoms. While degenerative disc disease can get worse over time, treatment and rest can lead to healing and improvement.
What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease is often a result of aging. As people get older, there is less fluid in the discs, meaning they are not as capable of providing cushioning for the spinal column and nerves. You may also experience tears and cracks in the outer layer of the disc, allowing the fluid inside the disc to be forced out causing the discs to bulge or rupture.
Overweight people are more prone to degenerative disc disease because there is more pressure on their spines. An acute injury can also cause a tear in the outer portion of the disc causing the onset of degenerative disc disease. When degenerative disc disease persists, it can lead to other painful conditions including bone spurs, arthritis, nerve damage, and spinal stenosis.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
The symptoms of degenerative disc disease include leg or back pain, tingling or numbness in buttocks or legs, and difficulty walking. The most common symptom of degenerative disc disease is back or neck pain. It can become more intense while bending, twisting, or lifting. The pain might be less intense when you change positions frequently. Many people feel more pain when they stand compared to when they are walking. This pain may fade on its own after a few days or it may persist. Everyone will have varying amounts of pain. There is no “normal” amount of pain that degenerative disc disease causes. Each person’s body, condition, and pain tolerance is unique. Clearway Pain Solution’s doctors will create a treatment plan based on your health and your pain levels.
How Degenerative Disc Disease is Diagnosed
Your doctor will assess your medical history and perform a physical exam. During the exam, your doctor will test your range of motion and look for areas where you are experiencing tenderness, weakness, tingling, or changes in reflexes. Conditions like infections, tumors, and fractures will be ruled out. Imaging technology is usually not useful in diagnosing degenerative disc issues, however, it may be used to rule out other painful back or neck problems.
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment
Although degenerative disc disease can’t be cured, it can be treated to provide pain relief. Degenerated discs can heal over time with rest and care. Ice and over the counter (OTC) pain medication can help reduce pain during healing. If OTC medication isn’t helpful, your doctor can provide prescription medications to help. Physical therapy can help increase strength and flexibility in your back. Your therapist will teach you exercises to help heal and prevent damage to your discs in the future. In some cases, surgery may be necessary if the disc pain does not subside. The damaged disc may be removed, or the affected vertebrae may be fused to protect your spinal cord. There are also artificial discs that can replace the damaged disc if needed.
Our skilled team is experienced in treating chronic pain. At Clearway Pain Solutions, we begin with an in depth consultation to determine treatment steps for you. We will work with you to create the best treatment plan combining multiple treatments if necessary. Call Clearway Pain Solutions to see how we can help provide pain relief.