Contrary to its name, degenerative disc disease (DDD) isn’t a disease but rather a condition in which age, wear-and-tear, and injury break down the discs along your spine. Without the support, space, and cushioning of your discs, DDD leaves you more vulnerable to painful conditions along your spine that can significantly impact your ability to function.
As spine health experts, the team here at Spinal Diagnostics is all too familiar with some of the debilitating effects that can stem from DDD, and we’re here to help. Since the problem is progressive, so are our treatment options, which we review here.
Your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae that stretch from the base of your skull to your pelvis. In between these bony structures are 23 intervertebral discs, which play several roles, including:
- Providing shock absorption along your spine
- Keeping your spine stable
- Allowing movement along your spine
Each of your discs is made up of two components: The annulus fibrosus and the nucleus pulposus, the tough outer layer, and the soft, jelly-like interior, respectively. Unfortunately, these soft tissues don’t enjoy a good blood supply, so they don’t readily renew and repair themselves.
With DDD, your discs can begin to lose moisture, which leaves them more brittle and prone to rupture or herniation. The loss of volume in your discs also causes your vertebrae to come into contact more frequently.
DDD mainly occurs in those areas of your spine that enjoy the most movement, such as your lower back and neck.
When it comes to the causes of DDD, age is the primary culprit. Most everyone over the age of 60 has some degree of degeneration in their intervertebral discs. Injury or repetitive stress on your spine can also lead to DDD.
In its earliest stages, you may not notice any symptoms at all. As your DDD progresses, however, you can experience side effects that include:
- Pain in your lower back or neck
- Pain that radiates into your arms or legs
- Numbness in your extremities
- Muscle weakness in your extremities
The primary reason why these symptoms develop and have the ability to radiate outward is that when your disc collapses, it can compress the nerve roots along your spine. Depending upon where the nerve travels, you can feel symptoms along the length of the nerve, which is medically known as radiculopathy.
Your treatment options for DDD depend upon the extent of the degeneration and the severity of your symptoms. With milder cases, we may recommend rest, icing, and anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy can also play an invaluable role by building up a better support system along your spine.
Should these conservative measures prove ineffective, we may recommend an epidural steroid injection to relieve the pain and the inflammation. We also offer spinal cord stimulation, which can better manage the pain by disrupting the signaling.
If your DDD has advanced to the point where your symptoms are tough to manage, we may recommend surgical intervention, including:
- The Vertiflex® procedure, which provides more space between your vertebrae
- Spinal fusion
- Artificial disc replacement surgery
We perform these procedures using the latest minimally invasive techniques available so that you can get back to moving without pain as quickly as possible.
The best way to find out which option would best remedy your DDD symptoms is to contact us at one of our two locations in Tualatin or Newberg, Oregon.