What causes degenerative disc disease? The answer might surprise you
Before talking about the causes of degenerative disc disease, it’s essential to understand exactly what that condition refers to. In fact, degenerative disc disease isn’t a communicable disease in the way you might think. It is actually a condition that results from the deterioration of the discs in the spine. These discs serve as shock absorbers for all of the spine’s everyday movements, and disc deterioration can mean painful consequences for the neck, back and throughout the body.
Degenerative disc disease risk factors
One of the most common underlying causes of degenerative disc disease is universal — the aging process. As we age, the water content in our body drops, and one of the areas affected by this change is the outer layer and inner core of the 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 if the soft core of a disc dries out, it will be unable to perform its main function as a cushion to surrounding vertebrae.
Not everyone over the age of 50 suddenly develops degenerative disc disease, however, so there are other risk factors that can influence the onset of the condition. Causes can include genetic predisposition, excess body weight and traumatic injury. Another factor is sitting for long periods of time, because the discs in the lower back have three times as much pressure exerted on them compared to when you stand.
Treating the condition
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 can often alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by the condition. But bed rest isn’t the only option. There are other conservative treatments, such as physical therapy sessions, pain relievers, steroid injections and exercise programs, which you should try as well.
If weeks or months of these treatments prove ineffective, it may be time to consider surgical procedures, such as spinal fusion. Surgical treatments are much more involved than conservative measures, so care should be taken when deciding which procedure to undergo. In addition to the traditional open back surgical procedures, there are now minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that require less recovery time and leave less scarring than open spine options, but still produce effective results. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer 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 how our multiple minimally invasive options can potentially treat your pain and symptoms.