What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) refers to the natural changes that occur in the spinal discs over time. Although all individuals will experience signs of wear and tear during the aging process, those with damaged spinal discs will experience pain caused by this degeneration.
How Does The Spine Degenerate?
The intervertebral discs located between each vertebra in the spine are designed to absorb much of the pressure and mechanical stress caused by daily movement. These pillow-like cushions are filled with fluid that allows for flexibility and shock absorbing characteristics that help with stability.
When you suffer an injury, the intervertebral disc loses its water content and shock absorbing characteristics. As as result, you may experience localized or radiating pain.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
The most common symptom of degenerative disc disease is back pain that spreads to the buttocks and upper thighs. The pain that is caused by the deterioration of the disc itself is commonly referred to as discogenic pain. Patients who experience discogenic pain may feel better while walking or running than while sitting for long periods of time.
A Herniated disc is another fairly common condition that falls within the category of degenerative disc disease. A herniated disc occurs when a damage to a spinal disc causes its jelly-like nucleus to be pushed out into the spinal canal. This type of disc degeneration can be detected with an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
Methods of Treatment
Most cases of degenerative disc disease can be treated non-surgically through rest following an injury. However, it is recommended that a patient only remain on bed rest for a period no longer than two to three days so as not to further weaken the back muscles.
Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy and mobility enhancement programs to calm the symptoms of back pain and return some of the function to the back muscles and surrounding areas.
However, if the symptoms persist, a doctor may need to perform a spinal fusion to permanently join the two intervertebral discs and eliminate movement at these points.