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Degenerative Disc Disease

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How Do I Know if I Have Degenerative Disc Disease?

When we age, there are changes that naturally occur in our spine, including the wearing down of the discs in between our vertebrae. These changes can include a loss of disc fluid in the inner layer of the disc, which causes the discs to thin out and become less flexible; sometimes there is weakening of the outer layer of the discs, which can lead to disc “leakage” and herniated discs.

This can make movement of the spine more difficult and painful. People who are obese, people who smoke, and people who perform strenuous activity (with heavy, repetitive lifting) are more prone to degenerative disc disease.

Your symptoms can vary, but those who suffer from degenerative disc disease typically experience:

  • Neck or back pain
  • Pain in the arms, legs, or buttocks that usually gets worse with more movement
  • Radiating numbness into the extremities
  • Weakness in the limbs

Which Treatment is Right For Me?

If you are experiencing chronic or worsening symptoms, consider scheduling an appointment with Q Spine Institute.

It’s important to keep a record of the kind of pain you’re experiencing, because your diagnosis will be based on a discussion of your symptoms, a physical exam, and comprehensive medical history review.

Our team will also want to know if you have a family history of the disease, or if you’ve experienced any recent trauma or injury.

Treatment of degenerative disc disease is usually handled conservatively at the Q Spine Institute. Cold and hot therapies (like ice packs or a heating pad), along with pain relievers can help with pain symptoms. Activities like stretching may also alleviate pain.

Degenerative disc disease can cause other conditions to arise – conditions like disc herniation or spinal stenosis. If the condition worsens or develops further, you may require other treatment for relief. Consult with your doctor or make an appointment with Q Spine Institute to determine the right course of treatment for you.

It is worth noting that the pain from degenerative disc disease may lessen over time because much of the nerve-related pain is caused by inflammatory proteins. Once these proteins are “burned out,” patients may experience relief from the pain. Because the spine naturally ages and weakens, however, it is important to continue to treat any pain symptoms, especially because the disease can cause other spine conditions.

Degenerative Disc Disease Quick Facts

Common Symptoms:

  • Pain in lower back that may radiate to hips
  • Pain in lower back or buttocks while walking
  • Pain in upper spine that radiates to shoulders and arms
  • In some cases, tingling or weakness in extremities

Common Causes:

  • Aging (No. 1 cause)
  • A sudden injury that starts degeneration
  • Smoking
  • Heavy physical activity
  • Obesity

DDD is one of the most common diagnoses for back pain for people 40+ years of age

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