Does age have an impact on degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease is the breakdown of the rubbery discs positioned between the vertebrae in the spine. Despite the alarming name, this is a natural, age-related condition that occurs when the discs narrow, shrink and become arthritic. This condition is both common and very treatable through the methods described below.

Disc changes over the years

Dealing with an aging body is a fact of life, and this is definitely true of the spine. When you age, the parts of the spine begin to break down. This is mostly because of wear from a lifetime of normal activity, even from something as simple as walking your dog. When the discs that cushion the spine deteriorate, it can lead to a range of conditions that cause pain and discomfort.

Due to a combination of repeated movement, declining circulation and lifestyle factors, the discs dry out and lose flexibility. This can cause the tough outer layer of the disc, which contains the gel-like center, to lose its shape. When this happens, the vertebrae will compress against each other, limiting movement and creating additional strain on the already deteriorated discs. While this process happens to everyone to some degree, degenerative disc disease is only diagnosed when painful symptoms occur.

If a damaged disc is displaced enough to interfere with the spinal cord or a nerve root exiting the spine, it can cause both local and radiating pain to different areas of the body. Degenerative disc disease is a general disorder closely related to more specific degenerative conditions in the spine. Some of the related problems that result from degenerative disc disease include bulging discs, herniated discs and spinal stenosis.

Treating degenerative disc disease

These changes generally don’t begin to affect people until age 50 or older. In most cases, symptoms don’t ever occur. If you are experiencing pain, and your doctor has diagnosed you with degenerative disc disease, the first step is usually a course of conservative treatments. This may include the following:

  • Over-the-counter pain medication
  • Hot and cold compresses
  • Low-impact exercises
  • Weight management
  • Core strengthening

If several weeks or months of these treatments have not brought relief, the minimally invasive spine surgery offered at Laser Spine Institute may help you find relief from neck and back pain without the need of traditional open spine surgery. Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information, and to receive a free MRI review* to determine if our procedures are effective for relieving your degenerative disc disease.

Many cases of degenerative disc disease can be treated by removing a small piece of the damaged disc using our minimally invasive decompression surgery. For cases of severe disc degeneration where a spinal fusion has been recommended, our minimally invasive stabilization procedures reduce the risk of traditional open spine fusion by simply replacing the damaged disc with an artificial one to support the spine.

If you are interested in finding out if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient degenerative disc disease procedures, reach out to the dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute today. We have performed more than 100,000 patient procedures since 2005 and are eager to help you get started on your journey to wellness.