Spinal discs are soft discs that make it possible for the spine to bend, twist, and flex. Disc degeneration describes the normal changes in spinal discs caused by aging. While disc degeneration may occur anywhere on the spine, it is usually seen in the discs that are situated in the neck or lower back.
Symptoms of Disc Degeneration
The symptoms of this condition vary from patient to patient. Some patients may face neck or back pain while others do not experience any pain. Patients with pain are likely to notice that it worsens when they engage in movements such as twisting, reaching up, or bending over.
Causes of Disc Degeneration
In most cases, disc degeneration is the result of aging. Aging often leads to a loss of disc fluid and tiny cracks or tears in the outer layer of the disc. The loss of fluid may cause the discs to lose flexibility and be less capable of serving as shock absorbers. Tiny cracks or tears in the outer layer of the disc can lead to a ruptured or bulging disc.
It is important to note that individuals who are overweight, obese, engage in intense physical labor like heavy lifting, or smoke are at a higher risk of disc degeneration.
Diagnosing Disc Degeneration
A doctor will use a variety of tools to diagnose disc degeneration. They will ask questions and conduct a physical exam. During the exam, their goal will be to look for areas of tenderness as well as changes related to the nerves. They will also search for tumors, fractures, and other conditions. Based on the results of their exam they may recommend that you have a radiologic test done to assist them in determining the cause of your pain.
Treating Disc Degeneration
There are a variety of treatments that may improve disc degeneration including:
- Mediations: Anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended in order to minimize pain.
- Heat and Ice: A combination of ice and heat therapy can be used to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Physical Therapy: Physical therapy exercises can stretch and strengthen the back and be effective for patients who develop issues such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or osteoarthritis.
- Surgery: If conservative measures do not help, surgery may be an option. The purpose of surgery for disc degeneration is usually to remove the damaged disc.
Contact Pacific Spine Today
If you are living with pain that is caused by disc degeneration or have recently been diagnosed with this condition, it is in your best interest to schedule an appointment at Pacific Spine. You can count on Dr. Timothy Keenen and his spine specialists to help you find relief.