What causes degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that results from the natural deterioration of the discs in the spinal column. These discs serve as shock absorbers for all of the spine’s everyday movements, and although disc deterioration is not necessarily painful and debilitating, it can potentially cause problems that are very disruptive to your everyday life.

Degenerative disc disease risk factors

The primary underlying cause of degenerative disc disease is universal: the natural aging process. As we age, the water content in our body begins to decrease, including the spinal discs. The outer layer of the discs are made of cartilage, and they can become brittle as their water and protein content are reduced, making them more susceptible to tearing during everyday movement. The inner core of discs are more gelatinous and, when healthy, have high water content. But as the soft core of a disc dries out, it can become less able to withstand the stresses of supporting the spinal column and upper body.

In addition to aging there are other risk factors that can influence the onset of the condition. Contributors can include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Excess body weight
  • Traumatic injury
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Poor posture
  • Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption

Although no one can avoid the natural aging process, taking steps to live a healthy lifestyle and promote the long-term health of the spine can decrease the chances of developing degenerative disc disease and related symptoms.

Treating degenerative disc disease

No matter what degenerative disc disease causes might be to blame for the condition, there are numerous treatment options available to you. Rest might be the first course of action for many patients because lying down or sitting can often relieve the pain and discomfort caused by the condition. Additionally there are many conservative treatments, such as physical therapy sessions, pain relievers, steroid injections and exercise programs, which doctors will generally recommend after diagnosing this condition.

If weeks or months of these treatments prove ineffective, it may be time to consider surgical procedures. Surgical treatments are much more involved than conservative measures, so care should be taken when deciding which procedure to undergo. As an alternative to traditional open back surgical procedures, spine surgery can be performed using minimally invasive techniques that require less recovery time and have less risk of complications.^ At Laser Spine Institute, we provide minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures that are an effective alternative to traditional open spinal fusion. Contact us today to learn more about degenerative disc disease and the advantages we can offer our patients.

We are happy to provide a free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.