Degenerative Disc Disease

This condition is a weakening of one or more vertebral discs, which serve as a cushion between the 33 vertebrae on the spinal column.

Degenerative disc disease can develop as a natural part of the aging process, but it may also result from injury to the back. Degenerative disc disease typically begins when small tears appear in the disc wall causing pain. When the tears heal, scar tissue is created that is not as strong as the original disc wall. If the back is repeatedly injured, the process of tearing and scarring may continue, weakening the disc wall. Over time, the nucleus (or center) of the disc becomes damaged and loses some of its water content which is needed to keep the disc acting as a shock absorber for the spine. The nucleus collapses when it no longer acts properly.

As the vertebrae above and below this damaged disc slide closer together the improper alignment causes the facet joints – the areas where the vertebral bones touch – to twist into an unnatural position. Over time, this awkward positioning of the vertebrae may create bone spurs. If these spurs grow into the spinal canal, they may pinch the spinal cord and nerves which becomes a condition called spinal stenosis”.

Some people experience pain at the site of the injury along with numbness or tingling in the legs. Strong pain tends to come and go and bending, twisting and sitting may make the pain worse. Lying down relieves pressure on the spine. Your PCA physician will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan.