What are the symptoms of degenerative changes in the spine?

Degenerative changes in the spine occur in all people as they age. However, there are a wide range of symptoms that can develop. Age-related degenerative changes in the spine typically begin with loss of water, both to the rubbery discs located between the spinal vertebrae and to the facet joints that link them together.

By having a better understanding of the causes and treatment options of these symptoms you can be a more informed patient who is more engaged with the care you receive. In addition to working with your doctor to develop a treatment plan, you can also contact the caring and dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute to learn more about your condition and the treatment options we offer.

Specific symptoms of a degenerative spine

The spinal discs can start to weaken and degenerate as they undergo years of daily movement and are compressed by the vertebrae. The compression can cause the inner disc material to expand outward and strain the surface layer, resulting in a bulging disc. When a crack in the outer layer forms, the gel-like material can be pushed out, resulting in a herniated disc. These conditions do not always cause pain or other symptoms, but they can be debilitating if they develop.

Another primary degenerative change in the spine is osteoarthritis, or inflammation of joints in the spine. This produces symptoms of pain, stiffness, weakness, numbness and tingling – especially if the nerve roots extending from the spinal cord, or the spinal cord itself, are impinged. Pain may worsen when sneezing, coughing or overexerting – and even when reclining, sitting or standing too long. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

The areas that the symptoms arise will typically depend on the location of the degenerative problem. Conditions occurring in the cervical (upper) region may lead to the following issues:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Pain radiating down to the shoulder blades, arms and fingers.

A large number of degenerative changes in the spine occur in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine. Symptoms can include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Radiating symptoms through the buttocks and down one or both of the legs to the feet.

Thoracic, or mid-back, degenerative changes are relatively rare, as this region of the spine is anchored by the ribs and remains relatively stable, but symptoms can include pain in the middle back, chest and abdomen.

When to consider surgery for degenerative spine conditions

If you’ve been dealing with neck pain, back pain and other symptoms related to a degenerative spine condition and conservative treatment options haven’t helped, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. Our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that has helped more than 70,000 patients find relief from neck and back pain since 2005.

Contact us today for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.