The spine is made up of vertebrae (bones) and cushions (discs) that are stacked one on top of the other. Degenerative disc disease occurs when the cushioning discs undergo changes as a result of an injury, disorder, or the natural process of aging. This condition can affect the spine at any location; however, the neck and lower back are the most commonly involved areas.
Despite the name, degenerative disc disease is not actually a disease, and the changes are usually a normal part of aging. However, this disorder can be the cause of discomfort and debilitation for many patients.
If you believe you may have degenerative disc disease, our Board Certified Spine Specialists offer non-surgical, minimally invasive spine surgical and pain management options that may be able to help.
What are the common causes of degenerative disc disease?
Each spinal disc acts as a protective bumper for the interconnected vertebral bones located above and below it. The shell of the disc, called an anulus, protects a jelly-like interior, called the nucleus. As you age, these discs can deteriorate, causing discomfort and reduced mobility. Typically, the nucleus will become firmer over time, potentially causing cracks or tears in the anulus, which may lead the disc to bulge outward or even rupture. This is called a herniated disc.
Less commonly, a congenital disorder or injury may also lead to fissures in the anulus. Individuals who are obese, smoke, or have a genetic predisposition to degenerative disc disease have a higher risk of developing this concern.
What are the symptoms of degenerative disc disease?
Degenerative disc disease can occur in the neck (cervical spine), middle back (thoracic spine), or lower back (lumbar spine). Depending on where the affected disc or discs are located, symptoms may be felt in the neck, arms, back, legs, or buttocks. Not everyone with this condition will have discomfort, however. If you’re experiencing lasting pain, weakness, or tingling in any of these areas, we recommend you contact one of our spinal surgeons for a consultation.
How is it diagnosed?
When you arrive for your initial consultation, we will discuss your symptoms and review your medical history. Additionally, one of our experienced Spine Specialists will perform a thorough physical examination to check for tenderness, loss of motion, and signs of fractures or other conditions. If more information is needed, we may order X-rays or another imaging test to obtain a closer view of the discs and the area of concern.
At Orthopaedic Institute of Central Jersey, we offer a comprehensive selection of degenerative disc disease treatments, including non-surgical and minimally invasive techniques. In most cases, surgery will not be necessary. Our skilled medical team will utilize conservative methods first, recommending a more advanced procedure only in the event that other therapies prove ineffective.
If you have additional questions about degenerative disc disease, please contact our offices in Wall, Toms River, Manahawkin, Freehold or Red Bank today. Our friendly and knowledgeable team can provide more information or help you to schedule a consultation with one of our surgeons.
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