Degenerating vertebral discs are referred to as degenerative disc disease. Wear and tear on the discs causes them to wear down, which results in pain, inflammation, and mobility problems.
Discs are housed between vertebrae, the small bones that form the backbone and surround the spinal cord. There are seven vertebrae in the cervical spine, twelve in the thoracic, five in the lumbar, five in the sacrum, and four in the coccyx. The primary function of the vertebral column is to protect the spinal cord, but it also provides structure and strength for the rest of the body.
Between the vertebrae are discs, which have a rubber-like consistency. The discs act as shock absorbers between the bones as the backbone moves and flexes back and forth, providing flexibility as we bend and stretch.
It is normal for the discs to experience some degeneration with age. People who are 40 years of age or older may begin to notice less flexibility, which may be an indication that the discs are deteriorating. The initial lack of flexibility created by degeneration may not be accompanied by pain. However, with time, the discs will wear away more, and you will likely experience pain.
Which Came First?
Osteoarthritis is a disease that you might consider interchangeable with degenerative disc disease. Like the scenario of which came first: the chicken or the egg, you might ask the same regarding osteoarthritis and disc degeneration. Does osteoarthritis cause discs to degenerate or is disc degeneration the culprit behind osteoarthritis? If you’re experiencing painful symptoms in the lower back, your doctor may diagnose the condition as degenerative disc disease or osteoarthritis.
If you’re experiencing pain in the neck or lower back, it may be the result of degenerative disc disease, since these are the areas in which the condition is most often localized. Pain may radiate to the arms and hand, and even to the thighs and buttocks. You may notice that the discomfort increases when lifting heavy objects or as you bend, stretch, and twist the back. Any back movement may be painful and may even occur without movement, for instance, after a long period of sitting.
Depending on where you are in the progression of degenerative disc disease or in the progression of osteoarthritis, the pain will range between mild and severe. In the most severe cases, pain can even be immobilizing. For this reason, it is important to see a physician right away to be diagnosed.
Treating Degenerative Disc Disease
There are a few options for treating degenerative disc disease. The primary options include noninvasive methods to relieve discomfort or surgery to address the degenerative discs. Surgery involves replacing the original degenerative discs, with artificial ones. Your surgeon may also determine that spinal fusion is a course of action instead of disc replacement.
Noninvasive treatments are primarily for managing pain symptoms. Physical therapy can strengthen and build muscles in the back, which can relieve pressure on the weakening discs. Medications that include over the counter anti-inflammatories or injections administered by a doctor can assist with pain management. Additionally, you may also relieve symptoms by applying heat and cold to the affected area.
Maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle to address symptoms surrounding degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. The more weight you put on, the more difficult it is for your body’s structures to handle it.
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment in St. Peters and O’Fallon, MO
The experts at Advanced Bone & Joint are capable of diagnosing the cause of pain in your back and can devise a treatment plan to manage or eliminate it.
We welcome walk-ins, so come in today. To learn more or to request an appointment, call (636) 229-4222. You can also request an appointment online.