What are degenerative changes in the spine?

Degenerative changes in the spine happen in different ways and the combination of these occurrences can lead to more serious and painful problems. Every person will experience some extent of deterioration as they age, with changes accelerating in a person’s 40s or 50s. Whether or not age-related changes have affected you yet, you might still be asking yourself exactly what degenerative changes in the spine are.

Patient education is a critical part of getting the help you need if you are dealing with neck or back pain. Learning about the specific degenerative conditions that affect the spine can help you and your physician develop a treatment plan that can let you return to the quality of life you’ve been missing out on.

Specific degenerative spinal conditions include:

  • Degenerative disc disease (DDD) – Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common degenerative changes in the spine. It is characterized by the breakdown of spinal disc cartilage. Eventually, a disc bulge or rupture can compress a nerve root. The thinning of discs can also cause vertebrae to move closer together and pinch nerve tissue. Factors such as aging, general wear and poor lifestyle choices can contribute to DDD.
  • Osteoarthritis – Osteoarthritis is the most frequently diagnosed form of arthritis and is also known as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease. Spinal osteoarthritis usually occurs in the lumbar (lower) region but can also develop in the cervical (upper) and thoracic (middle) regions. As cartilage wears away on the facet joints of the spine, it can lead to pain, inflammation and bone spurs, which are bony growths. The spine loses flexibility and stiffens.
  • Spinal stenosis – This is the narrowing of the spinal canal, which can be caused by a number of factors, including DDD and arthritis. This narrowing can lead to pinched nerves and accompanying symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. In the most severe cervical cases, where the upper spinal cord is compressed, the whole body weakens and paralysis may develop.

How is your quality of life?

If you’re experiencing neck and back pain, it may be due to degenerative changes in the spine. Consult your physician for a diagnosis and recommendation of the many conservative treatments available, such as rest, heat/ice application, physical therapy and various medications. If these treatments do not relieve your pain and other symptoms, contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more about our minimally invasive procedures that can help you find relief from neck and back pain.

Our minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, offering an outpatient experience, less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time.^ To see if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review.*