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The flexible discs between the vertebrae are the part of the spine that allow bending and twisting in healthy individuals. Spinal discs are designed to be shock absorbers between the spinal bones and are constructed to allow flexibility in the back. Through the process of aging, these rubbery discs eventually become smaller and lose rigidity.
Disc degeneration refers to back or neck pain caused by normal wear-and-tear on spinal discs, sometimes causing weakness, numbness or shooting pains in the arms or legs. Typically, the disease causes steady and low-level chronic pain with brief occurrences of more severe pain.
Reduce your risk.
Degenerative disc disease is pain caused by a disc that has lost integrity—it’s not an actual disease. Since spinal discs consist of a tough, outer wall and a gelatinous inner wall (the “nucleus pulposus”), there is very little blood supply. Once the disc is injured, it is unable to repair itself and the deterioration can cause pain.
For this reason, several factors contribute to the degeneration and pain involved. Age is a common factor, contributing to discs drying out and losing some of their ability to absorb shocks. Normal, daily activities and sports can contribute to tears in the outer area of the disc and injuries can cause slight swelling and pain.
Pinpoint your pain.
The most common symptom of disc degeneration will be continuous but low-grade pain around the disc. Occasionally, this can flare up into more severe pain arising from abnormal strains on the spine. However, this severe pain can sometimes arise from no obvious activity at all. These occurrences can last anywhere from a day or two to several weeks before returning to lower pain levels.
It is important to recognize disc degeneration pain can be felt in a number of ways throughout the body. Other symptoms can include an increase in pain with activities that involve bending or twisting the spine or lifting heavy objects. Muscle spasms can be a symptom, as well as an increase in back pain when sitting or standing for long periods of time. Similarly, pain in the neck when looking down can be a symptom, as can pain that feels unreasonably hot. This hot, sharp pain is often felt in shoulders, arms, hips or the back of the leg.
Get the answers you need.
Degenerative disc disease is difficult to diagnose. It develops gradually and is attributed to many possible related problems. The experts at Kayal Pain & Spine Center will discuss your medical history, understand your symptoms and often perform X-rays and spinal imaging tests to find the cause of your pain. Once disc degeneration is confirmed, we will develop a specialized treatment plan. This plan will help you manage your pain and travel the road to recovery.
Life’s too short to put up with pain.
For many individuals, disc degeneration can be treated successfully with nonsurgical care, often consisting of medication that will control the inflammation. This medication can be taken orally or through epidural injections as is often combined with physical therapy, strengthening exercises and low-impact aerobic conditioning.
Surgical options, such as disc replacement, will usually only be considered when the patient is still experiencing pain more than six months after nonsurgical care has begun. In this case, your Kayal Pain & Spine Center specialist will discuss and recommend the best surgical approach for your pain.