What causes degenerative changes in the spine?

Degenerative changes in the spine are common and occur in most people, with varying degrees of severity. There are several contributing factors for these degenerative changes, but aging is the most common cause.

As you get older, the discs of cartilage that provides support between the vertebrae tends to lose water and begin drying out. The lack of water in the discs may cause their flexible structure to become fragile and more susceptible to bulging and cracking.

A bulging or herniated disc may or may not be painful, depending on its proximity to the spinal cord or a nerve root. Furthermore, a smooth layer of cartilage that lines the spinal joints, or facet joints, may wear away, causing pain and stiffness in the neck and back.

While normal wear and tear is typically the main cause of degenerative changes in the spine, these changes can develop into other conditions, such as bone spurs or osteophytes, nerve compression and osteoarthritis. These conditions can cause debilitating pain and other symptoms if left untreated.

Other causes of degenerative changes in the spine

  • Trauma — Any form of traumatic injury can cause the spine to degenerate and weaken faster than it should. Lifting heavy objects, twisting or bending in an awkward way, and absorbing impact in a car accident or fall can damage the bone, cartilage, muscles, nerves and ligaments of the spine. Enduring the constant trauma of a job that requires continuous standing, bending and/or lifting may also cause damage to the neck or back. Any damage to the spine can take time to heal and may lead to permanent structural changes.
  • Genetic predisposition — Some people are more likely to exhibit degenerative changes in the spine due to their genetics. For instance, a person may inherit a condition such as a narrow spinal canal, also known as spinal stenosis, or curvature of the spine, also known as scoliosis. Certain individuals may also be more prone to bulging discs, herniated discs or osteoarthritis.
  • Smoking, diet, weight and other lifestyle factors — The toxins in cigarette smoke can damage the cartilage in the spine, which may lead to an earlier onset of degenerative spinal changes. Poor nutrition and excess weight can also cause the spine to wear out and weaken faster.

Laser Spine Institute

If you’ve tried nonsurgical treatment options, such as physical therapy and medications, to treat your degenerative spine condition and you are still in pain, contact Laser Spine Institute.

As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, we offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures to help treat a wide range of degenerative spine conditions on an outpatient basis. Our procedures treat the root cause of degenerative spine conditions without the highly invasive nature of traditional open spine surgery, allowing our patients to avoid an extended recovery time^ and higher risk of complication.

Find out today if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery by contacting Laser Spine Institute and requesting a no-cost MRI review.*