Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease is a weakening of one or more inter-vertebral discs, which normally act as a cushion between the vertebrae. This condition can develop as a natural part of the aging process, but it may also result from injury to the back.

The disease typically begins when small tears that appears in the periphery of the disc wall, called the annulus. These tears can cause pain. When the tears heal, it creates scar tissue that is not as strong as the original disc wall. If the back is repeatedly injured, the process of tearing and scarring may continue, increasing the weakening of the disc wall.

Over time, the nucleus (or center) of the disc becomes damaged and loses some of its water content. This center is called the nucleus pulposus. Its water content is needed to keep the disc functioning as a shock absorber for the spine. Once dry, unable to act as a cushion, the nucleus collapses. The vertebrae above and below this damaged disc slide closer together. This improper alignment causes the facet joints – the areas where the vertebral bones touch – to twist into an unnatural position.

In the long term, this awkward positioning of the vertebrae may create bone spurs. If these spurs grow into the spinal canal, they may pinch the spinal cord and nerves (a condition called spinal stenosis). The site of the injury may be painful.

Some people experience pain, numbness or tingling in the legs. Strong pain tends to come and go. Bending, twisting and sitting may make the pain worse. Lying down relieves pressure on the spine

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