Nerve pain and aging

Nerve pain, or neuralgia, in the spine is more likely to develop as we age. As much as we don’t like to think about getting older, it is important to learn about the situations and processes that could lead to neuralgia to help possibly prevent nerve pain in the future.

Degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease is a common condition that can potentially lead to spinal nerve pain. This term refers to the progressive deterioration of the spinal discs that are located between the vertebrae of the spine. These rubbery discs serve as shock absorbers that distribute forces evenly throughout the body.

As we age, the discs dehydrate, weaken and can lose height. The inner material may shift and press against the outer layer, causing a bulge to appear. This condition is known as a bulging disc. A herniated disc occurs when the inner material breaches the outer layer of the disc and enters the spinal canal.

If a herniated or bulging disc happens to compress the spinal cord or surrounding nerve roots, nerve pain may develop at this site. Pain, weakness, cramping, numbness and tingling may also radiate down the arms and hands, or the legs and feet, depending on the location of nerve compression in the spine.

Other degenerative spine conditions

As we grow older, the effects of age-related degeneration may start a chain reaction in the development of other neck and back conditions.

The following conditions may contribute to the narrowing of the spinal canal, called spinal stenosis, nerve compression and nerve pain:

  • Degenerative joint disease. This condition, also known as osteoarthritis, occurs in a similar fashion to degenerative disc disease. Cartilage and lubricating fluid between the facet joints of the spine break down over time, which can lead to pinched nerves that cause pain, stiffness and inflammation.
  • Osteophytes. Osteophytes, or bone spurs, may develop after a degenerating disc or joint has worn down, causing the surrounding bones to rub together. These bony growths may enter the spinal canal and compress the spinal cord or nerve roots.
  • Thickening of ligaments. The ligaments that hold the spine together might stiffen and become thicker, possibly adding to spinal stenosis and nerve pain.

Treatment options for nerve pain

Aging is an unavoidable part of life and it is the largest risk factor for painful spine conditions over time. If nerve pain has affected your quality of life and you’ve found that nonsurgical treatment like physical therapy or medication has not relieved your symptoms, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery.

Our highly skilled surgeons perform minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures that are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^

We can provide a free MRI review* to find out if you’re a potential candidate for one of our procedures.