What is degenerative disc disease and who is most susceptible to experiencing this condition?
Who is most susceptible to degenerative disc disease?
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is an intense form of the age-related wear and tear everyone experiences in his or her spinal discs. Most people can expect some disc weakening over time. With age, the fibrous outer wall (annulus fibrosus) of a disc becomes brittle and weakens and the gel-like inner portion (nucleus pulposus) begins to lose water content. These developments rob the disc of flexibility and height, bringing the bony vertebrae closer together and endangering the nearby nerve roots and spinal cord. Spinal stability begins to suffer and there is the potential for symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness to arise if spinal nerve tissue is irritated or compressed.
How does DDD develop?
There is almost no way to predict who will develop degenerative disc disease and who will not. There are, however, a few indications that you might be at risk for the condition. These include:
- Prior traumatic spine injury
- Participation as a teenager in extreme contact sports, such as football or field hockey
- A family medical history that includes degenerative disc disease
In other words, if the spinal discs have experienced previous injury, they could be more susceptible to accelerated decline. The same is true if the discs were exposed to a great deal of physical shock at a young age, while the body was still growing. And, even though genetic traits are not necessarily a sure-fire indicator that someone will develop a condition, it’s believed to add to the potential of developing certain degenerative spine conditions. Also, people who lead inactive lifestyles or carry excess weight place much more stress on their spinal discs and might be susceptible to early spinal deterioration.
Treating the symptoms
No matter when someone develops degenerative disc disease, there is no guarantee that debilitating symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness will develop. Some people have DDD and never realize it. Even if swelling, stiffness, pain and other symptoms do arise, they usually can be managed using a combination of conservative treatment methods like medication and physical therapy. If pain and other symptoms persist after several weeks or months, however, contact Laser Spine Institute to request a free MRI review.* Our team can give you more information about the minimally invasive surgeries we perform and help you find out if you’re a candidate.