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Answering Your Questions About Degenerative Disc Disease

Within our backs, we have discs that are placed in between the bones of our spinal column that essentially serve as shock absorbents. Each disc is made up of a firm outer layer and a soft jelly-like core, and they help hold the spine together while allowing us to bend and manipulate our backs. When these discs begin to wear down over time, it can create a painful experience known as Degenerative disc disease. In the following, we will answer the questions you may have about Degenerative disc disease and provide an overview of the different stages and options for treatment.

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is actually not a disease at all. It’s basically the breaking and wearing down of one or more spinal discs, which in turn causes pain in that area of the back. Throughout our body, we have tissue that when damaged has the capability of repairing itself. This is not the case with our spinal discs. When the breaking and wearing down of the disc occurs, the condition gradually worsens over time. When treated early on however, you can expect improvements and symptomatic relief.

degenerative disc disease

What are the causes of Degenerative disc disease?

The biggest factor in the onset of Degenerative disc disease is age. As we grow older, our spinal discs will inevitably begin to succumb to the forces we continuously put on our backs and start to break down. Specifically, as we age our discs begin to dry out. As the spinal disc dries out, it’s not able to absorb the forces we put on our backs. Over time, our daily physical exertions put more wear and tear on our spinal discs. This physical activity can begin to cause tears in the discs.

It’s common that we begin to experience disc degeneration in our later years, whether this leads to situations of back pain varies from person to person. Another reason you may experience degenerative disc disease would be injuries, past or present, that have contributed to the degeneration. These injuries cause our back to be less stable and flexible, resulting in back pain.

What are the stages of Degenerative disc disease?

There are four stages a person will typically go through when experiencing Degenerative disc disease.

  1. In the first stage, you will begin to experience a sort of imbalance in your spine. You will undergo postural changes, losing some of the normal curvature in your back. During this time, your spinal discs will tend to wear down and deteriorate more quickly. The amount of pain in this stage will be minimal, with some people experiencing no pain at all. In this first stage, receiving the correct treatment can show very good results.
  2. During the second stage, your disc will go through a more rapid and pronounced decaying. Your discs will narrow noticeably, and your posture will go through more noticeable changes. This is when you will begin to experience some aches and pains as well as feeling fatigued more easily. You will start to notice a change in your height as well. Receiving proper care in this stage can still result in significant improvements.
  3.  In the third stage, your postural imbalances will be even more noticeable than the previous two stages. You will be more at risk for permanent scar tissue and loss of height. Your bone degeneration will be more rapid and significant in this stage. However, with treatment you are able to reverse some of these symptoms.
  4. The fourth and last stage of the degeneration process results in severe postural issues as well as spinal imbalance.  There will typically be significant nerve damage with permanent scar tissue. In this stage, you may begin to experience severe back pain. At this point, it becomes very difficult to reverse the symptoms. However, with the right treatment the pain can be relieved to some extent.

 

How fast does it progress?

Degenerative disc disease essentially progresses as fast as you let it. If you let your symptoms go without seeking treatment, the condition will progress faster. It’s inevitable that we experience Degenerative disc disease in some form or another, what we can control is how fast it progresses and how far we let it progress. By taking precautions, limiting strain to the back, practicing healthy back movements and maintaining a healthy weight, you can slow down the degeneration process.

How can it be treated?

The treatment of Degenerative disc disease mostly consists of the practices listed above. These are more preventative strategies that can slow the process down and stop it before the issue becomes too serious. For less serious cases, physical therapy, safe exercise, anti-inflammatory medication, and other preventative treatments can help with symptomatic relief. For more serious and advanced cases, it would be a good idea to see a spine specialist for treatment and advice. Epidural injections can be a great option for Degenerative disc disease, especially if the condition results in a herniated disc. Be sure to discuss your symptoms and concerns with a specialist if you are experiencing anything that coincide with the characteristics of Degenerative disc disease.

degenerative disc disease

How can Pinnacle Pain help with your Symptoms?

At Pinnacle Pain and Spine, we pride ourselves in treating a vast variety of back injuries and pain symptoms. If reading this article has you concerned that you may be going through any stage of Degenerative disc disease, don’t hesitate to call our team to discuss your symptoms further. Our team of highly trained professionals will be able to guide you to the correct treatment path and get you back to feeling and living well.