what is Degenerative Disc Disease?

what is Degenerative Disc Disease?

From walking to laying down, your thirty-three vertebrae are expected to provide a lot of support. A lifetime of using them is likely to cause damage. Just like cars, the more a joint is used, the more damage it obtains. When damage occurs, it is important to find a physician who can fix the problem before it begins to affect other parts of the body in a more negative fashion.

The Basics of the Spine

Most of the vertebrae have a portion called the body. The body of the vertebrae has cancellous bone in the center and is surrounded by a circle of harder compact bone. The cervical vertebrae C1 (atlas) does not have a body and C2 (axis) has a modified body. Together, C1 and C2 articulate in a fashion that allows humans to turn their heads.

Between the bodies of most vertebrae there are cushions referred to as intervertebral discs. The outside of the intervertebral discs is tough and called annulus fibrosus. The inside is softer in comparison and called nucleus pulposus. The intervertebral discs prevent the vertebrae from rubbing together and wearing down. Additionally, the discs absorb shock from body movements.

Degenerative Disc Disease

While there are many problems that can affect the spine, degenerative disc disease is one of the more significant problems, seriously affecting your quality of life. It can result in pain or numbness, potentially worsened by bending or twisting. You may find relief when laying down.

Back injuries and aging contribute to the breaking down of the intervertebral discs that classify this disease. The disease begins when the annulus fibrosus starts to tear and is healed. The healing process inserts scar tissue, which is weaker than the original tissue, making it easier to reinjure the area.

Once the tearing is extensive enough, it may cause the nucleus pulposus to leak some of its water, reducing its ability to absorb shock. Eventually, the nucleus pulposus will become too weak and collapse. This will cause the spine to lose its shape and bend in unusual positions. An extended period unnatural positions can cause bone spurs to form, which can place pressure on the spinal cord or the nerves exiting it, both of which are close to the vertebrae. This is called spinal stenosis and is what causes the pain or numbness.

Finding Treatment

If you believe you may have degenerative disc disease, you should seek help from a physician such as Dr. Stephen Courtney, an orthopedic spine surgeon. A physician like Dr. Courtney will be able to diagnose the disease and recommend the best course of treatment you should take.

This treatment may include spinal surgery to repair the discs through a variety of potential procedures. Physical therapy may also be used to improve the health of the spine. You may also be prescribed pain and anti-inflammatory medications to control your quality of life.


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