Degenerative Disc Disease

degenerative disc diseaseDegenerative disc disease is one cause of neck pain , also known as DDD or osteoarthritis of the spine. DDD is the degeneration of the vertebral disc of the upper or lower spine. The disintegration of the discs could lead to spinal stenosis or cervical spondylosis. This condition is not a disease but a degenerative disorder that can be painful and seriously affect your life.

The degeneration of the disc is a normal phase of the aging process but as it wears off, it can place pressure on the nerves of the spinal cord causing pain. With degenerative disc disease, the disc begins to weaken and lose its elasticity.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

  • If there are not enough fluids in the disc, it will lose its capability to absorb shock. As the discs become thinner, the space of the vertebrae narrows. With this, there will be no cushion between two vertebrae.
  • When there is an injury on the disc like a crack, the jelly-like substance that acts as a cushion may leak causing the tissues to bulge. Herniated disc in the neck is another cause of DDD.

Doctors do not precisely know what causes degenerative disc disease. But age, injury and osteoarthritis all contribute to this condition.

Who Is At Greater Risk Of Developing DDD?

This condition affects young adults and the middle aged people who have vigorous lifestyles. Studies also prove that people who smoke are at risk of acquiring the disease.

Symptoms Of Degenerative Disc Disease

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease include pain caused by stiff neck; tingling sensation of the neck, shoulders and arms; and muscle weakness in the shoulders down to the hands. Tingling and weakness of the muscles are possibly due to a pinched nerve in the neck.

Pain starts off at the lower back and can be felt in the buttocks and legs. You can feel underlying pain at times followed by occurrence of intense pain which may last from a few weeks to a few months.

Pain is also aggravated while you are sitting because the position will add more pressure and weight on the affected disc. Avoid activities with bending and lifting to prevent pain. Some people would feel better or find some relief if they walk or run rather than just sitting down for long hours.

Conservative Care

Patients suffering from degenerative disc disease can be relieved by placing an ice or hot pack to manage pain and inflammation on the affected areas. Some doctors may recommend the use of neck appliances such as neck or cervical collar as part of their treatment.

A neck collar, neck pillow or neck traction is used to stabilize the neck and place it in its proper alignment so that certain movements or positions will not cause additional nerve or disc compression.

Medications That Could Give Relief

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and pain relievers are used to provide relief.  Oral steroids and muscle relaxants may also be used to prevent muscle stiffness which can cause pain.

If pain caused by degenerative disc disease is not relieved within six months of conservative treatment and daily activities are starting to become hard to do, surgery is the next option to consider.

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