Degenerative Disc Disease

This malady is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. However, it's also frequently misunderstood. Learning about the causes and symptoms of degenerative disc disease can make it easier for you to understand what is going on with your body and how we can help.

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

The term "degenerative disc disease" can confuse many patients. While it sounds like it is a progressive disease, it is actually a description of the physical condition that is causing your pain. The pain starts when the walls of discs begin to tear. The fluid inside the disc can seep out, resulting in less ability to absorb shock. While degenerative disc disease can get worse over time, treatment and rest can lead to healing and improvement.

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

The most common symptom of degenerative disc disease is back pain or neck pain. The pain may become more intense during activities like bending, twisting, or lifting. The pain may become less intense when you change positions frequently. Many people feel more pain when they stand than they do when they are walking. The pain may fade on its own after a few days or it may persist. There is no "normal" amount of pain that degenerative disc disease causes. Each person's body, condition, and pain tolerance is unique. Gulf Coast Pain Institute's healthcare professionals will create a treatment path based on your health and your pain levels.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is often, in part, a result of aging. As people get older, there is less fluid in the discs, which means that they are not as capable of providing cushioning for the spinal column and nerves. People may also experience tears and cracks in the outer layer of the disc, which can allow the fluid inside to be forced out, causing the disc to bulge or rupture.

People who are overweight or obese are more prone to degenerative disc disease because there is more pressure on their spines.

An acute injury can cause a tear in the outer portion of the disc, which can cause the onset of degenerative disc disease.

When degenerative disc disease is allowed to persist, it can lead to other painful conditions that include bone spurs, arthritis, nerve damage, and spinal stenosis.

How Degenerative Disc Disease is Diagnosed

Your doctor will assess your medical history and perform a physical exam. During the exam, your doctor will test your range of motion and look for areas where you are experiencing tenderness, weakness, tingling or changes in reflexes. Conditions like infections, tumors, and fractures will be ruled out. Imaging technology is usually not useful in diagnosing degenerative disc issues; However, it may be used to rule out other painful back or neck problems.

Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment

Degenerated discs can heal over time with rest and care. Ice and over-the-counter pain medication can help reduce the pain during healing. If OTC pain medications are not helpful, your doctor can provide prescription medications to help.

Physical therapy can help increase strength and flexibility in your back. Your therapist will teach you exercises that can help you heal and prevent damage to your discs in the future. These exercises can also help with pain relief because of the endorphins that are released during physical activity.

If you develop other spinal health issues as a result of the damaged disc, these will also require treatment.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary if the disc pain does not subside. The damaged disc may be removed or the affected vertebrae may be fused to protect your spinal cord. There are also artificial discs that can replace the damaged disc if needed.

Are you suffering from lower back pain? Call us for an appointment. We can assess the cause of your pain and create a treatment plan to relieve your pain and bring your back to full health.

Experiencing symptoms or want to find out more?