Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is a term to describe the effects of aging or trauma on the disc on the spine. This term is somewhat misleading in that is typically identified on radiographic studies and is not a true disease in of itself as condition such as heart disease. The vertebral discs are “cushions” in the spinal column that supports weight and allows flexibility of the spine. Over time, the discs can wear out as a result of trauma, infection or the general aging process. Over time there is fluid loss within the disc and the decreased height reduces its cushioning effect. The pressures are transferred to adjacent structures like the facet joints and nerve roots at the level of wear. Patients may experience symptoms of pain in the back, hip, and groin that gets worse with twisting or bending backwards or they may also experience a burning pain in the legs that gets worse with walking. This occurs when the nerve at the degenerative level is irritated or “pinched”. There are many effective treatment options available that will target the associated symptoms depending on the source of your pain. While disc degenerative disease can not completely be prevented, there are certain factors that have been known to contribute toward acceleration of disc degenerative disease. To help slow this progression it is important to maintain a healthy body weight, stop smoking and have good spine mechanics with lifting.

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