Degenerative Disc Disease
As we age, the water and protein content of our cartilage changes. This change results in weaker, thinner and more fragile cartilage. Because our spinal discs and facet joints are partially composed of cartilage, these areas are subject to wear and tear over time (degenerative changes). This natural, gradual deterioration of the discs between the vertebrae is referred to as degenerative disc disease.
Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease
Degeneration of the disc is medically referred to as spondylosis. Spondylosis can be noted on X-ray images or an MRI scan of the spine as a narrowing of the normal “disc space” between the adjacent vertebrae. An MRI scan may show early degeneration changes, such as a loss of water content in the discs.
Degenerative Disc Disease Complications
Degeneration of the spinal discs makes them more susceptible to herniation and can cause pain in the affected area. Any level of the spine can be affected by disc degeneration. When disc degeneration affects the neck, it is referred to as cervical disc disease. When the mid-back is affected, the condition is referred to as thoracic disc disease. However, disc degeneration that affects the lumbar spine is referred to as lumbago, which causes pain localized to the low back and is common in older patients.
Treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease occurs naturally with age. However, some treatments and lifestyle factors may prevent this condition from worsening or causing symptoms that intervene with daily life. These include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise
- Not smoking or quitting smoking altogether
If you experience back pain, the multidisciplinary team at Comprehensive Medical Care offers a variety of treatment options to address the root cause of degenerative disc disease.