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Degenerative Disc Disease

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease refers to a combination of problems in the spine that begins with damage to a disc. It can affect any part of the spine. The most common parts of the spine affected by degenerative disc disease are the lower back and neck areas.

Degenerative disc disease usually starts with a twisting injury to the disc space. The injury weakens the disc and creates excessive micro-motion. The excessive micro-motion, combined with the inflammatory proteins inside the disc produces low back pain.

Degenerative disc disease is also called spondylosis.

What is a Disc?

A disc is a soft, rubbery pad found between the hard bones that make up the spinal column. The hard bones that make up the spinal column is called the vertebrae. The discs between the vertebrae allow the back to flex and bend. Discs also act as shock absorbers.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

In most patients, degenerative disc disease will develop slowly over time. When degenerative disc disease develops slowly over time, it is usually caused by repeated daily stresses and minor injuries to the discs in the spine. Daily stresses involve activities like minimal impact sports and lifting and carrying heavy objects. Minor injuries to the disc may occur and not cause pain at the time of the injury.

Degenerative disc disease may also develop from a twisting injury to the disc space. The injury weakens the disc and creates excessive micro-motion. The excessive micro-motion, combined with the inflammatory proteins inside the disc produces low back pain.

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

The most common early symptom of degenerative disc disease is pain in the back that spreads to the buttocks and upper thighs. Another symptom is a stiff spine.

Can Degenerative Disc Disease be Treated?

Yes. Some common treatments are:

  • hamstring stretching
  • dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises
  • low-impact aerobic conditioning
  • medication to relieve pain

In severe cases, lumbar spinal fusion therapy may be needed. Fusion therapy will restrict the motion at a painful motion segment.

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