Degenerative Disc

Degenerative Disc 2017-11-25T23:55:47+00:00

Degenerative Disc

Overview

This condition is a weakening of one or more vertebral discs, which normally act as a cushion between the vertebrae. This condition can develop as a natural part of the aging process, but it may also result from injury to the back.

  • Disc Wall Tears

    Degenerative disc disease typically begins when small tears appear in the disc wall, called the annulus. These tears can cause pain.

  • Disc Wall Heals

    When the tears heal, creating scar tissue that is not as strong as the original disc wall. If the back is repeatedly injured, the process of tearing and scarring may continue, weakening the disc wall.

  • Disc Center Weakens

    Over time, the nucleus (or center) of the disc becomes damaged and loses some of its water content. This center is called the pulposus, and its water content is needed to keep the disc functioning as a shock absorber for the spine.

  • Nucleus Collapses

    Unable to act as a cushion, the nucleus collapses. The vertebrae above and below this damaged disc slide closer together. This improper alignment causes the facet joints – the areas where the vertebral bones touch – to twist into an unnatural position.

  • Bone Spurs Form

    In time, this awkward positioning of the vertebrae may create bone spurs. If these spurs grow into the spinal canal, they may pinch the spinal cord and nerves (a condition called spinal stenosis). The site of the injury may be painful.

Symptoms

The amount of pain caused by degenerative disc disease can vary from slightly irritating to severely debilitating. Most patients suffer some underlying chronic low back pain with intermittent episodes of severe pain. Usually, sitting, bending, twisting and lifting worsen the pain more than standing or lying down, positions that can relieve the strain on the disc space.

Causes

Degenerative disc disease frequently causes lower back pain. This condition is one of the most common and can arise due to a variety of reasons, including trauma, but the most common reason for developing degenerative disc disease is simply growing older.

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