Degenerative disc disease is a spine condition that describes the breakdown of the flexible discs in the spinal column. While the most common degenerative disc disease causes include the natural aging process and gradual wear and tear, there are certain spine risk factors that can increase your chance of developing this spine condition. We may not be able to slow down the aging process, but certain preventative measures can promote overall health and spinal health as we age, which can potentially slow down the development of these spine conditions.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Over time, the discs that cushion the spine naturally begin to deteriorate as a result of years of wear and tear, combined with age-related changes like loss of water and protein content. This phenomenon is particularly common in the highly flexible and weight-burdened regions of the spine in the lumbar (lower) and cervical (upper) spinal regions.
Though the gradual deterioration of discs often goes unnoticed for years, when degenerative disc disease causes the compression of a nerve, a nerve root or the spinal cord, the patient may experience a variety of symptoms, including:
- Localized pain
- Stiffness or difficulty moving
- Pain that radiates along a nerve
- A feeling of pins and needles
- The sensation of heat
Leading Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
In addition to the natural aging process, there are a number of spine risk factors to keep in mind. Generally speaking, any activity that increases strain or stress on the spinal column can accelerate the degenerative process. Carrying extra body weight, for example, is a leading contributor to degenerative disc disease because the burden of supporting extra weight strains the discs in the lumbar spine.
Similarly, having poor posture can accelerate disc deterioration because of the improper alignment of the spine. Smoking, traumatic injury, a sports-related accident, frequent bending, twisting, or lifting and other similar activities are also common contributing degenerative disc disease causes.
While lifestyle changes like weight loss and good posture can help reduce your spine risk factors of developing degenerative disc disease, it may not prevent you from the spine condition altogether. If you do develop a damaged disc in the spine, work with your doctor to explore all the available options for pain relief.
Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease
While many patients with degenerative disc disease benefit from conservative treatments such as physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, and lifestyle changes such as improving posture or quitting smoking, surgery may be recommended if weeks or months go by without an improvement in symptoms.
In the event that degenerative disc disease causes you significant pain and conservative treatments have proven ineffective, get in touch with BEST Health System to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery. We perform minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures that can treat degenerative disc disease and a range of other spine conditions. Due to the muscle-sparing approach our surgeons take to the spine, our patients experience a shorter recovery time and less spine risk factors compared to patients who undergo traditional open back surgery.