Degenerative disc disease refers to wear-and-tear in the spinal discs. Spinal discs, also known as intervertebral discs, are round pads located between the vertebrae, which are the bones that comprise the spine. These discs make your spine flexible and prevent bones from rubbing on each other.
The discs in the neck and the lower spine are the most likely to wear out, as these areas are always in motion.
However, people who live a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to experience degeneration in their discs. Remaining seated for prolonged periods compresses the lower spine, and staring at screens with a poor posture can also put excessive pressure on the neck.
Other factors that may increase your odds of developing degenerative disc disease include having a family history of back problems, carrying a few extra pounds, smoking cigarettes, making repetitive movements involving the spine, and having weak core muscles.
Pain can occur in two ways: via inflammation inside the discs that causes the jelly-like liquid to leak out and press on the surrounding tissues or via instability between the spinal bones.
As the disc degenerates, it also becomes thinner, so it provides less cushion and support to the spine bones. Therefore, the spine becomes less stable.
If the contents of the discs leak and put pressure on the surrounding nerves, you may feel numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, depending on where the damaged discs are located.
Muscle wasting is a sign that the discs in your spine may be pushing against the nerves controlling muscle movements. When muscles don’t contract as they should, they gradually atrophy, meaning they lose strength and size.
Degenerative disc disease can sometimes go unnoticed because the discs have few nerves. As a result, the degeneration can take place without causing any pain, unless the discs push on the surrounding tissues.
Most people have some degree of degeneration in their discs after the age of 40. However, not everyone experiences symptoms. If you’re interested in finding out what your symptoms may mean, schedule an appointment by contacting us at 609-838-2900.
Dr. Ibrahim is an expert in pain management, and depending on your symptoms and the cause of your back problems, he may recommend oral medications, physical therapy, or injections.
You may also benefit from making changes to your routine, such as spending less time sitting down, improving your posture, or quitting smoking.