Degenerative Disc Disease is commonly misunderstood as a disease which it isn’t. The term denotes the natural ageing process of the spinal discs. In the early years, the spinal discs are soft and supple and are present in between the spinal vertebrae that make up the spine. These intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers, thereby enabling the spine to flex, bend and twist. While this degenerative disc disease may occur throughout the spinal structure, it is most common in the lower back and neck regions of the spine referred to as Lumbar and Cervical Spine respectively.
When the discs age, they tend to lose their elasticity and thus integrity and may lead to:
These conditions result in pain and sometimes impair nerve function.
The degeneration process of the intervertebral discs in most cases is because of the natural ageing process. The discs tend to lose fluid which will reduce its elasticity and shock absorbing ability. This will also result in the thinning of the discs and reduction in the spacing between the discs.
Very rarely, the degeneration may also occur due to an injury or a trauma to the neck. As a result, the disc might herniate and slip out of its original position, thereby impinging on a nerve nearby and causing unbearable pain.
In a lot of cases, the degenerative disc disease does not show any symptoms. Only when a nerve is irritated by the discs that have degenerated, do the symptoms start showing.
The typical symptoms include:
The physician to make an accurate diagnosis typically starts the process by doing a physical examination with special emphasis on back and lower extremities. He will also check for Flexibility, Range of motion and certain signs that could mean that your nerve roots are being impacted due the degeneration process. Muscle strength and reflexes are checked for normalcy and if required, you might also be requested for an MRI scan.
Conservative remedies are always the first choice while treating this condition. Bed rest, painkillers and physiotherapy help relieve the pain to a good extent. Alternative therapies like Yoga, Acupuncture and Ayurveda are gaining huge popularity for their holistic healing methods that address the underlying conditions rather than the symptoms. They are found to be extremely effective in relieving the pain and rejuvenating the body promising long term relief without any side effects. People who do not find relief with any of these options, opt for surgery as the last choice when the condition severely impacts their quality of life and the pain becomes incapacitating.