Do I Have a Degenerative Spine?

What is a Degenerative Spine?

Degenerative spine symptoms can take a toll on your daily life. Everyday movements like those involved in cooking, stretching, tying your shoes, or gardening can become difficult and painful. By better understanding this condition and the specific symptoms it causes, you can work more closely with your doctor to develop an effective treatment plan. 

At BEST Health System, our surgeons specialize in different orthopaedic and spine conditions. Most commonly, these conditions are due to the natural degeneration of the spine. However, in some cases, trauma and injuries can also be to blame. 

What Causes a Degenerative Spine?

Joints, ligaments, muscles, discs, and vertebrae make up the spine. Both the joints and discs contain cartilage that makes your neck and back movements smooth and comfortable. As you age, this cartilage begins to break down and become brittle, meaning it can no longer sustain the impact of your body’s movements.

The breakdown of the spinal discs is called degenerative disc disease, which causes conditions like herniated or bulging discs, among others. The weakening of joint cartilage is called degenerative spine arthritis, or osteoarthritis, which can develop bone spurs. This is the body’s way of protecting itself from the pain caused by arthritic joints rubbing against each other.

Since most degenerative spine conditions develop gradually, many people do not know they even have the condition. It is most identifiable when individuals recognize that they do not feel the same as they used to when working out or doing everyday activities. So, the question remains – do you have a degenerative spine? The best way to tell is to look into the symptoms. 

Degenerative Spine Symptoms

Many people with this condition will not experience any symptoms. However, being knowledgeable can help you be more prepared. Some common symptoms are:

Degenerative spine symptoms for any related condition vary from person to person but may include:

  • Degenerative disc disease. This condition may cause localized and radiating pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness.
  • Degenerative spine arthritis. With spinal arthritis, you may experience warm throbbing and tenderness, limited range of motion, or diminished flexibility.

Degenerative spine symptoms vary depending on which region of the spine is affected by nerve compression:

  • Degenerative cervical spine. This affects the upper neck and back and causes potential pain and symptoms in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands.
  • Degenerative thoracic spine. This affects the middle region of the back, often causing symptoms around the rib cage or lower body.
  • Degenerative lumbar spine. This condition affects the lower back; you may feel symptoms in the feet, buttocks, legs, and tailbone.

Conservative Treatment Options

The only way to confirm that you have a degenerative spine is to get a diagnosis from your doctor. There are many ways to come to a diagnosis, but the most common include movement tests and imaging. 

Your doctor will likely recommend a combination of conservative therapies upon diagnosis. This can include physical therapy, massage therapy, hot/cold therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications. These are typically recommended first as a way to control the condition while avoiding the need for surgery. 

Surgery with BEST

If these conservative efforts are ineffective, you might begin to consider surgery. At BEST Health System, our surgeons specialize in minimally invasive procedures, all performed on an outpatient basis. Contact our team today to learn more about the procedures offered at BEST.