Degenerative Disc Disease

Disc Degeneration

 
Degenerative disc disease, also known as disc degeneration, is not really a disease.

Disc degeneration refers to the changes in the spinal discs resulting from chronic wear and tear, injury, or simply aging.

These changes include loss of fluid in the discs (a condition called disc desiccation), tears of the disc annulus (the outer layer of the disc), and growth of nerve fibers in the damaged discs.

Spinal disc degeneration is most common in the lower back (lumbar region of the spine) and the neck (cervical region of the spine), but it can happen anywhere in the spine.

Our spine is comprised of alternating vertebrae and discs. The discs act as cushions, and most of the pressure and stress of everyday movements is absorbed by the discs. Without them, the vertebrae alone would be unable to absorb stresses, and we would be unable to bend or twist.

Spinal discs are the circular, rubbery, chip-like discs that cushion between two consecutive vertebrae in the spine. They are full and rich in water in a young person. However, with everyday wear and tear and the body’s aging and physical demands, spinal discs gradually become thinner, dryer and worn.
 

Conditions Related to Disc Degeneration

 
In many cases, the discs will start to split in the periphery. In the more severe cases, the discs will either be completely thinned out, or the center of the disc, filled with a jelly-like substance called the nucleus, will become a bulging or herniated disc.

This is a primary cause of pain and discomfort ranging from neck or back pain to arm or leg pain. Some people experience numbness, tingling and sharp shooting pain that can radiate down the legs or arms. In some cases, an acutely ruptured disc can cause severe nerve compression that not only causes extremity numbness and weakness, but in rare situations loss of normal bowel or bladder control.

If conservative treatment such as chiropractic care or physical therapy is not adequate, epidural steroid injections, selective nerve root blocks, facet joint injections and/or a radiofrequency neurotomy could be of value in relieving the pain.

Note from the Doctor

Our team of pain specialists at Arizona Pain Treatment Centers will diagnose and evaluate the severity of a degenerated spinal disc and educate you on the steps needed to aid you in your pain treatment.

 

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