Degenerative disc disease is not actually a disease. The term covers the gradual changes in the spinal discs experienced by patients as they age. A spinal disc is the soft spongy item located in between each vertebra of the spine and functions by absorbing the ‘shock’ during regular movement. It is because of these discs that the spine is able to enjoy the range of motion it does.
Degenerative Disc Disease can occur in any section of the spine, but is most often seen in the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) discs.
What causes Degenerative Disc Disease?
As the body ages and the discs see regular use, they slowly wear out. The disc is able to function as a shock absorber for the spine due to an internal fluid. This fluid is slowly lost over time, which narrows the disc and removes some of the space provided between each vertebra. This causes the spine to sometimes grind against itself during movement. This damages the structure of the spine and may result in the formation of bone spurs.
A disc may either bulge out of its socket or rupture. In either case, the surrounding spinal nerves can get impacted, leading to secondary complications and pain.
The symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
Pain will be felt in the location of the damaged disc, but the severity will vary from patient to patient. It is possible for a damaged disc to result in no pain felt it all, just as it possible for the pain to be so severe it is debilitating to the patient. There are two ways a patient may experience pain associated with degenerative disc disease: a gradual worsening of the symptom as the condition worsens, or as a sudden occurrence, which is common when the damage to the disc is caused by direct injury.
Symptoms will also vary depending on the location of the damaged disc. A damaged lumbar disc can cause pain and weakness to be felt throughout the buttocks and legs, whereas a damaged cervical disc can lead to stiffness of the neck and the occurrence of headaches.
How is Degenerative Disc Disease diagnosed?
An examination of the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and events leading up to the occurrence of symptoms will be made. Diagnostic tests will vary depending on the location of the symptoms and may include testing the range of motion of the spine, testing if the nerves are compressed, and touching the affected area to see if it is tender.
Imaging tests will be performed if the physician suspects a disc and its surrounding bone structures are damaged. The disc itself is also examined to see if it has ruptured or bulged out of its socket.
Treatment options for Degenerative Disc Disease
For minor cases of this condition, treatment can be administered through the application of warm or cold compresses (whichever is more effective for the patient). Painkillers and anti-inflammatories are given, with some physicians prescribing stronger doses as needed. Surgery may be required for those patients who are experiencing other complications as the result of this condition, such the compression of one or more nerves.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Degenerative Disc Disease and would like the best nonoperative San Antonio Pain Management, contact Premier Pain Consultants today. The practice has a Double Board Certified pain management doctor accepting over 50 insurance plans at multiple locations, chiropractors, and Physical Therapy.
Call (210) 202-4030 for more information and scheduling!