The term degenerative disc disease (DDD) refers to a group of spinal conditions affecting intervertebral discs brought on by the process of aging. Everyone’s intervertebral discs deteriorate with age, but not necessarily at the same rate. Therefore, the onset of symptoms related to DDD is highly variable. Treatment of DDD can take a variety of forms, depending on the location and severity of the degenerative spine disorder.
Examples of Degeneration
Degenerative disc disease is actually an umbrella term that can refer to several conditions that affect the intervertebral discs. The following is a summary of how DDD occurs. Intervertebral discs are natural shock absorbers between the boney vertebrae. Discs have two main components, an outer fibro-elastic containment rim and an inner soft gelatinous core. When axial loading pressure occurs along the spinal column, the central gelatinous core of the disc squeezes outward against the fibro-elastic containment rim of the disc. The elastic recoil of the containment wall pushes the gelatinous core back into position, reestablishing the height and shape of the disc. As a person ages, natural daily activity causes repeated loading of the disc. Tiny tears may develop in the fibers of the fibro-elastic outer containment wall. This causes some loss of the disc’s outer containment wall elasticity or recoil. The outer disc containment wall can no longer push the central core material back into shape as effectively. The outer containment wall sags, and is said to bulge or collapse. DDD has begun. However, the most significant symptoms caused by DDD require nerve compression; therefore not all DDD is immediately apparent. Because these discs both protect our backbone and serve a connective function, disc damage can present several problems, including:
- Herniated disc – the outer wall of a disc has torn and extruded its disc material into the spinal column
- Bulging disc – the outer wall of a disc has weakened, allowing the disc to push beyond its normal perimeter
- Thinning disc – the disc has lost its cushioning power and has collapsed, allowing adjacent vertebrae to rub together and possibly pinch nerve roots
- Spinal stenosis – a general narrowing of the spinal column, primarily due to any of the above conditions
Causes of Degenerative Pain
For all of these degenerative spine conditions, the significant symptoms arise only when the nerves in the spinal column become constricted. It is this compression that causes the common symptoms of numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness. . All treatment of DDD should begin with conservative treatment. If conservative treatment fails, spinal surgery may be indicated to decompress entrapped nerves. The surgical technique utilized should be efficacious while yet subjecting the patient to the least risk, and the least destruction of normal tissue possible.
This being the case, consider Laser Spine Institute’s (LSI’s)state-of-the-art, endoscopic spine surgery procedures. LSI surgeons use minimally invasive, outpatient procedures to accomplish these goals. Contact us today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.