What causes degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that affects most adults over the age of 50. The most common cause of degenerative disc disease is the natural aging process of the spine, which means little can be done to fully avoid the condition, though certain lifestyle choices may help delay the onset of this condition.

Even though degenerative disc disease is a common occurrence for many adults, most people who have this condition are not aware that they have it. A damaged disc on its own does not cause any pain or symptoms; these symptoms only occur when a piece of the damaged disc touches a nerve root near the spine. Generally, the body heals the damaged disc through the process of resorption before any chronic symptoms are experienced.

However, understanding the cause of degenerative disc disease can help you make lifestyle choices that promote a healthy spine and reduce your risk of developing this condition.

Aging and degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease is most often caused by exactly what the name indicates: degeneration of the spine with age. The discs in the spine are responsible for supporting the vertebrae, allowing them to move and hinge without colliding with each other. These discs also act as natural shock absorbers, cushioning the vertebrae during high-impact activities like sports and running.

Over time, the discs may begin to break down. The elasticity in the outer disc layer may begin to stretch after years of continual pressure from the twisting, moving and weight gain of the body. Eventually, the loss of elasticity in the outer layer of the disc and the chronic pressure on the disc from the surrounding vertebrae may cause a series of disc damage, including:

  • Herniated discs
  • Bulging discs
  • Disc protrusions
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis

Preventing degenerative disc disease

While you cannot control the natural aging process of the spine, there are certain lifestyle choices you can make that can improve your overall spine health and reduce your risk of developing a degenerative spine condition. These lifestyle habits include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce unnecessary pressure on the spine.
  • Limit alcohol and tobacco use because it decreases circulation to the discs and causes dehydration. Additionally, constant alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain and inactivity.
  • Reduce high-impact sports like football and other contact sports that cause the spine to rapidly bend and snap.
  • Exercise regularly to strengthen the core muscles around the spine so they can help support the body’s weight and movement.

If you still develop a degenerative disc disease despite these prevention methods, contact the spine care specialists at Laser Spine Institute and ask about the available treatment methods for your pain.

We offer minimally invasive discectomy, sometimes followed by a stabilization surgery depending on the severity of your disc damage, to treat degenerative disc disease. A minimally invasive discectomy can be used to treat most degenerative disc diseases by removing a small portion of the disc to reduce the pressure on the nerve root. In some severe cases, the entire disc must be removed with a stabilization surgery. When this happens, an artificial disc and bone grafts are inserted into the empty disc space to stabilize the spine.

Our minimally invasive spine surgery is often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open spine surgery because our procedures offer a safer and effective alternative. For more information about how we can treat your degenerative disc disease, contact Laser Spine Institute today.