What Causes Degenerative Changes in the Spine?

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 main cause.

As you get older, the discs of cartilage that provide support in between the vertebrae lose water and begin drying out. The lack of water in the discs causes their usually pliable 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 joints of the spinal column (called facet joints) also may wear away, causing pain and stiffness in the neck and back.

Although 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 (osteophytes), nerve impingement and osteoarthritis.

Other causes

  • Trauma – Any form of traumatic injury can cause the spine to degenerate and age faster that 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 constant trauma in a job that requires continuous standing, bending and/or lifting also can cause damage to the neck and back. Any damage to the spine can take a long time to heal, or sometimes can lead to permanent structural changes.
  • Genetic predisposition – Some people are genetically more likely to exhibit degenerative changes in the spine. For instance, a person may inherit a condition such as a narrow spinal canal (spinal stenosis) or curvature of the spine (scoliosis). Certain individuals might also be more prone to developing 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, leading to an earlier onset of degenerative changes. Poor nutrition and excess weight can also have a negative effect on the spine, causing it to wear out and age faster.

Laser Spine Institute

Degenerative changes in the spine happen to everyone, but if you’ve tried conservative treatment options, such as physical therapy and medications, and you are still in pain, contact Laser Spine Institute. Learn about the advanced, minimally invasive techniques that allow our orthopedic specialists to perform effective outpatient procedures. Contact us for a review of your MRI or CT scan today.