Degenerative disc disease risk factors

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) has several risk factors. The most prominent risk factor is aging. Aging, of course, cannot be avoided, but avoiding other risk factors can delay symptoms of DDD.

As with most health issues, proper nutrition, regular exercise and weight control all contribute to a longer, healthier, disease-free life. Traumatic injury contributes to DDD, yet some trauma is avoidable. Use of proper safety equipment and safety practices may mean trauma avoidance. Life choices such as occupation and hobbies contribute to DDD. For instance, individuals participating in high-contact athletics and jobs requiring heavy lifting have a higher risk of DDD than those not engaging in such activities.

Disc anatomy

Spinal discs are natural shock absorbers between the bony vertebrae. Discs have two main components, a tough outer layer and a soft gelatinous inner core. When 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 outer layer pushes the gelatinous core back into position, re-establishing the height and shape of the disc. As we age, natural daily activity causes repeated loading of the disc. Small tears may develop in the fibers of the tough outer layer. This tearing causes some loss of the disc’s elasticity. The outer disc wall can no longer push the central core material back into shape as effectively. The outer wall sags and is said to bulge or collapse, or even herniate.

Symptoms associated with DDD

Most herniated or bulging discs do not exhibit symptoms. However, when a protruding disc wall or extruded nucleus material presses on the spinal cord or irritates a nerve root, symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness can occur. Most of the time, these symptoms can be managed using pain medication, physical therapy, massage, behavior modification or a combination of these or other conservative methods of treatment. Only when chronic pain persists despite weeks or months of conservative treatment is surgery suggested.

Minimally invasive alternative

If your symptoms have not responded to conservative treatment and your physician has recommended surgery, try to find the least invasive surgical treatment possible. Currently, the least invasive form of spine surgery is minimally invasive spine surgery, such as the procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute, to treat degenerative spine conditions. Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures with shorter recovery periods than traditional open spine surgery.^ Contact us today for a review of your MRI report or CT scan and to receive more information about our outpatient procedures.