Degenerative Disc Disease, or DDD, is actually not a disease at all. It is simply the deterioration of the spinal discs, which occurs naturally with age. Spinal discs are the soft, shock absorbing cushions that separate the vertebrae and allow for the twisting, bending, and flexing of the spine. As the body ages, these discs can breakdown and form tiny tears or cracks in the outer lining. The nucleus, or jelly-like fluid inside the disc, can then be forced out through these tears, causing the disc to bulge, rupture, or break into fragments. Less cushioning fluid in the discs means that they are thinner and provide less distance between the vertebrae. When this space is decreased and there is less padding, the spine becomes less stable. The body typically reacts by forming bone growths (bone spurs) that put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, affecting nerve function and resulting in pain.
Certain factors, like smoking, obesity, and heavy manual labor increase the chances of DDD. Previous surgery or an acute injury that causes a herniated disc may also initiate the process of Degenerate Disc Disease. Many people can manage the problem with non-surgical treatment. Some people, however, experience severe and disabling pain and muscle spasms (often combined with numbness and tingling) that affect their mobility and day to day functioning. If improvement is not seen after a significant amount of physical therapy for core strengthening and after at least 6 months of various non-surgical treatments, surgery may be necessary. The most common surgery for DDD is fusion surgery, but artificial disc replacement surgery may also be an option. The important thing to remember is that just because you are aging, doesn’t mean you have to sit back and deal with the pain of DDD. The back experts at Laser Spine Surgery can provide you with valuable information and all of the available options for treatment. Call today to get started on living a pain free life.