With age, intervertebral discs naturally degenerate, resulting in decreased flexibility and increased susceptibility to injury. Precisely how does age cause degeneration? Medical research has found the following: According to the U. S. National Institutes of Health, at birth the human body contains 90% water, at adulthood it contains 70% water, and by age 90 it contains about 50% water. Additionally, the composition of elastin, which is the protein that gives tissues the ability to stretch, chemically changes. With age, elastin undergoes chemical cross-linking. This decreases the ability to stretch. With aging, bodies desiccate and become less stretchable. These two facts explain disc degeneration. 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. The disc may even herniate.
Symptoms of lumbar degenerative disc disease may include:
- Pain centered in the lower back
- Radiating pain to your hips and legs
- Increased pain when sitting, bending, twisting, or lifting
For the majority of patients, the pain is low-grade which can intensify for a few days and then subside. The pain from lumbar degenerative disc disease does not typically worsen over time.
If you’re suffering from back pain, consult your physician. They will perform a physical examination which includes testing your flexibility, range of motion, and reflexes. A CT scan or MRI may be ordered to confirm the existence of lumbar degenerative disc disease. Your physician will offer various treatment options, including modifying your activities, rest, application of hot or cold packs, and physical therapy You can learn more about this treatment by reviewing our degenerative disc disease exercises page.
In some cases, patients may not respond to conservative treatment and surgery is prescribed. It is reasonable to determine the least invasive efficacious surgical treatment possible. Please investigate the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. Laser Spine Institute offers efficacious procedures with shorter convalescent period and lower risk when compared with traditional open spine surgery of all types. Contact us today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, and to receive more information about our institute.