Understanding Degenerative Disc Disease

shutterstock_124786804Understanding Degenerative Disc Disease

Our spinal column is made up of bones called vertebrae. Between these bones are soft spinal discs that cushion, absorb shock and allow us to comfortably bend and twist. As we age, our spine changes and begins to show the wear and tear of daily living. These soft discs begin to break down, providing less of a cushion between our bones; this often results in discomfort and pain. These changes can cause degenerative disc disease (DDD) in some people.

DDD can occur anywhere on your spine, but is most often seen in the lower portion of the back or neck. DDD is a common cause of pain in these areas. What causes these changes in our discs? Cracks in the outer layer of the disc, gaseous degeneration, and a loss of fluid in the discs are the common culprits.

Normal wear and tear, injury and trauma to the back can cause small tears and cracks in the outer layer of the disc. When the cushion-like material inside the disc is pushed out through these cracks, the disc bulges, and over time it can rupture or break into small pieces. Bulging and ruptured discs cause pressure on the spine resulting in back or leg pain.

As we age, our discs lose fluid, making them thinner and less able to absorb shock as we move. Thinner discs provide less cushioning between our vertebrae. At times they become so thin that the vertebrae rub together. The loss of fluid also makes the discs less flexible. These changes in our discs can result in back pain.

Not everyone with back pain has degenerative disc disease. To get a proper diagnosis, the specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho will perform an exam and get a complete medical history. Be prepared to tell them about any recent injuries or illnesses, the symptoms you are experiencing, previous at-home treatments as well as those done by another doctor, the location of the pain, and the activities that cause you pain. This information, along with a physical examination, will help us understand your situation and develop an individualized treatment plan.

Initial treatment for DDD ranges from ice or heat packs or strengthening exercises, to over-the-counter pain medications. If more aggressive treatment options are needed, Dr. Marano and his team can help. They have been providing comprehensive spinal care for almost 30 years. If you’ve been experiencing back pain or think you might have degenerative disc disease, we encourage you to make an appointment today. You can call 208-522-6930, or go online to schedule an appointment.