Degenerative disc disease refers to a spinal condition caused due to the breakdown of intervertebral discs. As people become old, their spine shows signs of regular wear and tear as the discs dry out and shrink. This in turn may put extra pressure on the spinal cord and nerves causing low back and neck pain.
The exact causes of this condition are not known. The degeneration or breaking down of spinal discs as a result of aging may lead to this condition. Another cause may be the loss of fluid in the discs or tiny tears or cracks in the outer layer of the disc. Other than old people, regular smokers, obese people and people who do heavy physical work (such as repeated heavy lifting) are more likely to have symptoms of this disease.
There are different pain symptoms associated with degenerative disc disease and these may vary from one person to another. For some people, this condition does not cause any pain, while others experience chronic pain that potentially interferes with their routine activities. The type of symptoms include –
- In most cases, the pain usually begins in three ways – a major injury followed by sudden and unexpected pain, a minor injury along with sudden back pain, or pain that begins gradually and gets progressively worse.
- Physical activity related pain that flares up at times, but returns to a low level or to a state of no pain
- In certain cases, people may experience burning sensations that begin in the lower back area and may be felt in one or both of the legs and buttocks.
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the legs and feet along with weakness in the leg muscles.
- People may experience chronic underlying pain that is irritating and occasional episodes of muscle pain from time to time. These episodes may generally last from a few weeks to a few months.
- Certain positions such as sitting cause more pain as your discs have extra weight on them. For instance, people suffering from lumbar degenerative disc may experience severe twinges while sitting as the lumbosacral discs are loaded three times more than when standing.
- Walking and running may be better than prolonged sitting or standing. On the other hand, certain types of activity especially bending, lifting and twisting may worsen the muscle soreness.
There are different treatment approaches for this degenerative disc disease. The treatment modalities may differ from one person to another and may depend on the intensity of symptoms. Established pain management clinics offer safe and effective treatment modalities such as physical therapy, chiropractic care and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for reducing the symptoms of degenerative disc disease.