What You Need To Know About Degenerative Disc Disease
Spinal discs are soft and compressible discs that separate the interlocking bones of the spine, known as vertebrae. They act as shock absorbers, allowing the spine to flex, bend and twist without damage. Over time, these discs will begin to degenerate or break down, and it usually begins in the lower back or lumbar region and the neck, otherwise known as the cervical region.
One of the first signs that your spinal discs are undergoing changes through degenerative disc disease is the loss of fluid. Losing fluid reduces the disc's ability to act as a shock absorber, and they begin to lose flexibility. They also become thinner during fluid loss, and will narrow the spaces between vertebrae. Soon, tiny tears or cracks will also appear in the outer layer of the disc. There is a jelly-like material inside the disc that is normally used to cushion the bones of the spine, called nucleus, and it will leak out through those cracks over time.
Losing the nucleus material can cause the disc to bulge or rupture, and eventually break down into fragments. Sudden injuries to the spine can also create this condition of the disc, and is known as a herniated disc. As the space between vertebrae shrinks, the spine becomes unstable, and the body will react by creating bone spurs between the vertebrae. Those spurs squeeze in between the vertebrae, further crowding out the flattening discs, and putting pressure on the spinal nerves. This can result in chronic back pain, as well as loss of nerve functions throughout the body.
The main symptom of degenerative disc disease that alerts most patients that something is wrong is pain. Some patients may not experience any pain at all, while others will have chronic bouts of pain in the neck and lower back. A lot of it depends where the affected discs are located. A degenerating disc higher up the spine, near the neck, may cause pain in the neck or arm, including numbness and tingling.
A degenerating disc in the lower back can cause pain in the lumbar area, as well as the buttocks and legs, often accompanied by numbness and tingling as well. The level of pain may increase following movement, like reaching up for something, bending over, or twisting. Often, the pain comes out of nowhere, for no apparent reason, while others will only experience intermittent pain following an injury or fall of some kind.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Medical history and physical exams are just the beginning of diagnosis. A variety of tests will be run, including range of motion, reflexes and weakness will also be done. There may also be X-rays or MRI tests done to pinpoint the exact cause.
Treatment will depend on the condition of the disc, and whether other ailments besides degenerative disc disease are involved. Medication, chiropractic treatment and exercises are all normally employed. Surgery is always a last resort.
Suffering from chronic back pain and you are not sure what is causing it? Call the Chiropractic Center of Lakeland today for an immediate appointment and assessment for degenerative disc disease. Also check out our new page on Degenerative Disc Disease.
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