Degenerative spine symptoms and causes

The term degenerative spine describes the age-related breakdown of spinal anatomy that leads to conditions like spinal arthritis or bulging and herniated discs. Symptoms caused by degenerative spine conditions can range from a minor inconvenience to an extremely painful and debilitating disruption to your quality of life. Whether you have been diagnosed with a spine disorder or you are trying to learn about the potential causes of your neck and back pain, learning more about degenerative spine symptoms and causes can be helpful.

Degenerative spine symptoms

The symptoms of degenerative spine conditions can range in intensity, location and frequency, depending on the person and the specific underlying cause. Symptoms can be present locally in the spine or travel to the upper or lower extremities. Where the pain is located depends on which part of the spine is affected and which nerves are impacted. For example a condition in the lower spine can affect the lower back, buttocks and legs, while an upper spine condition can affect the neck, shoulders and arms.

Specific degenerative spine symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness
  • Muscle spasms

Degenerative spine causes

The natural aging process is the primary cause of a degenerative spine. Over time, the parts of the spine that allow for movement, such as the joints and discs, dry out and become less able to withstand the stress they are placed under every day. These degenerative changes lead to the specific spine conditions that are often the source of neck or back pain. These include:

  • Spinal osteoarthritis — a wearing down of cartilage in the spine’s facet joints that leads to inflammation and stiffness
  • Spondylolisthesis — the slipping of a vertebra over the one beneath it
  • Bone spurs — outgrowths of bone naturally formed by the body in response to excess joint friction
  • Bulging or herniated discs — the bulging or rupturing of spinal discs due to the discs weakening over time

In addition to age, factors like weight, tobacco usage, posture and high-impact sports engagement can also accelerate the degeneration of the spine.

Upon diagnosis, these conditions are often first treated with a course of conservative treatment options, with surgery usually seen as a last-resort treatment to be considered if other methods have been exhausted. If you’ve been recommended for surgery but have concerns about the risks and difficulties of traditional open neck or back surgery, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery involves a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques to make it a safer and effective alternative to traditional procedures.^

Our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants can help you receive a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.