Guide to 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 provide support between the vertebrae tend 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 strain on the spine is typically the main cause of degenerative changes, 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. Read on to learn about the causes and treatment options for degenerative changes in the spine.

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. Genetics may also cause a person to be overweight, increasing the pressure on the spinal discs.
  • Lifestyle factors like smoking and diet. 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 can also cause the spine to wear and weaken faster.

Minimally invasive treatments for degenerative changes in the spine

If you’ve tried nonsurgical treatment options, such as physical therapy and medications, to treat your degenerative spine condition and you are still experiencing pain, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures can relieve the symptoms of degenerative spine conditions without the highly invasive nature of traditional open spine surgery, allowing our patients to experience a shorter recovery and a lower risk of complication. ^ We offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures to help treat a wide range of degenerative spine conditions on an outpatient basis.

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery and has helped more than 75,000 patients to date find relief from chronic neck and back pain. Find out if you are a candidate our minimally invasive spine surgery today by reaching out to our dedicated team and requesting a no-cost MRI review.*