What is degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease occurs largely because of age. As people grow older the gel-like discs in their spine begin to lose their fluid either due to natural wear and tear or age. When this happens a person’s vertebrae begin to come closer together and lose the cushion that once helped to absorb any shock that could come from activities such as jumping, walking, or running. Continual wear on the spine, bad posture, and even unnatural body movements that tweak the spine in difficult movements are also able to weaken the discs, causing further degeneration.

The causes of degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease can be a part of growing older, in which case it is unavoidable. As people age the discs in the spine slowly lose the needed flexibility and elasticity that make them such ideal shock absorbers for the vertebrae they sit between. For those who experience this condition sooner, trauma to the back can be a main cause that heightens the risk or accelerates the onset of deterioration.

 The symptoms of degenerative disc disease

The most telling symptoms of this particular condition are back and/or leg pain. Those who experience this problem will also likely feel numbness in the legs or even the buttocks. They might even have increased difficulty walking as the cushion between the vertebrae becomes reduced.

The diagnosis

Diagnosing this disease requires an examination by a doctor. In the case of this disease the most attention is given to the back and the lower extremities of a patient. Tests for flexibility and range of motion will be conducted to ascertain the severity of the condition. If the doctor notes that a patient is exhibiting telltale signs of pain they will likely come to the determination that the pain is originating from pinched and damaged nerve roots that can be affected by the degeneration that is occurring in a person’s back. This will eventually lead to a test that gauges the strength of your back muscles and that tests to see if the reflexes are still working as they should.

A patient will most likely be required to indicate where their symptoms, such as numbness, pain, weakness, and tingling, most commonly occur. An MRI might ordered, as will X-rays to determine the validity of a doctor’s observations.

Treating degenerative disc disease

Treatments for this disease tend to vary. A great deal of how this disease is treated will depend on how severe the symptoms are and to what degree a patient’s everyday life is impacted by the disease. There are a few different treatments to consider, though all of them are best discussed with a doctor and selected based upon the intensity of the pain a patient is feeling. Two of the more prominent treatments are as follows:

1) Non-surgical

Degenerative disc disease doesn’t always imply surgery. Those experiencing mild to moderate pain can be prescribed medications, chiropractic care, and possible physical therapy.

2) Spinal fusion

This procedure is the fusing of two or more vertebrae together to decrease movement between them. Eventually the fused section heals into a single bone. This is for those who suffer continual and even chronic pain caused by degenerative disc disease.

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