What is Degenerative Disc Disease, and What are the Warning Signs?
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a condition that results in the deterioration of the discs that cushion the vertebrae in your spine. As these discs degenerate, they lose their ability to absorb shocks and compressions effectively. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.
Knowing the early warning signs of DDD can help you seek treatment before the condition progresses and causes more extensive damage. This guide will discuss the most common warning signs of degenerative disc disease, how to ease your symptoms, and when to seek help.
What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?
The discs in your spine are made up of a gel-like substance called nucleus pulposus encapsulated by a tough, fibrous outer layer called the annulus fibrosus. As you age, the discs in your spine begin to degenerate. This process is natural and happens to everyone. However, some people experience more extensive degeneration than others.
Several factors can contribute to the accelerated degeneration of the discs in your spine, including:
- Age: The discs in your spine naturally begin to deteriorate as you age. This process is called disc degeneration and is a normal part of aging.
- Genetics: You may be more likely to experience disc degeneration if it runs in your family.
- Poor lifestyle choices: Smoking, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition can all contribute to the degeneration of the discs in your spine.
When these common factors are combined with other illnesses, an injury, or repetitive stress to the spine, they can accelerate the development of degenerative disc disease. Understanding your risk factors can help you take steps to prevent or delay the onset of DDD.
What Are the Early Warning Signs of Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degeneration of the spine is part of the natural course of aging. As you grow older, your discs lose water content and elasticity. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.
Symptoms of degenerative disc disease can often begin gradually and worsen over time. It is easy for us to push it out of our minds. But, while the occasional aches are not caused for concern, early symptoms of DDD can include:
- Back pain: You may experience pain in your lower back that radiates into your buttocks or legs. This is often worse when you move your spine, sit, or stand for long periods.
- Stiffness or limited range of motion: You may feel stiffness in your lower back that worsens in the morning and improves with movement. You may also have difficulty bending or twisting your spine.
- Numbness, weakness, or tingling: You may feel numb in your legs or feet. This is often caused by pressure on the nerves in your spine.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s essential to see a DDD specialist so they can determine the cause and recommend treatment. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your chances of slowing the progression of degenerative disc disease.
What Are the Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease?
The goal of treatment for degenerative disc disease is to relieve pain and improve function. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your DDD specialist may recommend a variety of treatment options, including:
OTC or Prescription Medication
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help relieve pain. Your DDD specialist may also prescribe a more vital medication, such as muscle relaxants or nerve pain medication, if needed.
Be sure to mention any other medications you’re taking and any allergies you have so that the specialist can prescribe the safest medication.
A physical therapist can teach you exercises and stretches to help ease your pain and improve your range of motion. They may also use modalities, such as heat or ice, to help relieve pain.
Sometimes, your insurance may require you to see a physical therapist before authorizing other treatments. It is a good idea to check with your insurance company to see what is covered under your plan.
A chiropractor can adjust the spine to help relieve pain and improve your range of motion. Similar to physical therapy techniques, they may also use other modalities, such as massage, soaks, or electrical stimulation, to help relieve pain.
Be sure to see a licensed and reputable chiropractor who has experience treating degenerative disc disease. In rare cases, a chiropractic adjustment can worsen symptoms, so you should discuss this option with your DDD specialist first.
If conservative treatment options don’t relieve your pain, your DDD specialist may recommend surgery. There are a variety of surgical procedures that can be used to treat degenerative disc disease, including:
- Discectomy: This procedure involves removing a damaged disc from the spine.
- Artificial disc replacement: This procedure involves removing and replacing a damaged disc with an artificial one.
- Laminectomy: This procedure involves removing a portion of the bone over the spinal cord to relieve pressure on the nerves.
Your DDD specialist will recommend the best surgical option based on the severity of your symptoms and the underlying cause of your degenerative disc disease.
Experiencing Early Symptoms of DDD? Contact Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery in Florida Today
Early treatment of degenerative disc disease is crucial to slow the condition’s progression and avoid long-term pain and disability. Even if the symptoms are mild, it is essential to see a DDD specialist so they can diagnose the cause and recommend treatment.
Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery offers various treatment options for degenerative disc disease, including non-surgical and surgical options. Our team of expert spine surgeons has years of experience treating degenerative disc disease and can develop a customized treatment plan to help you find relief. To schedule a consultation with one of our spine surgeons, contact us or call at (855) 853-6542 today.