One of the most common causes of back pain is degenerative disc disease. Contrary to its name, it’s not an actual disease but rather a set of symptoms that cause neck and back pain that may radiate to the upper and lower extremities and cause weakness, tingling, and shooting pain, depending on the location of the degenerated spinal disc. Patients with this condition experience intermittent pain that ranges from mild to severe.
Degenerative disc disease commonly affects the cervical spine and the lumbar spine, since these areas undergo the most stress over many years of wear-and-tear.
Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
This condition is often the result of age-related wear-and-tear to spinal discs. Many patients, after reaching a certain age, experience drying out of the spinal discs as the body loses moisture. The spinal discs are made of 80 percent water, and when the discs dry out, they have less flexibility and absorb less shock, which makes them vulnerable to degeneration.
Another possible cause of degenerative disc disease is overuse injuries. You may be surprised to know that a high percentage of patients with degenerative disc disease are relatively young (in their 30s or 40s) and live active lifestyles. People with very active lifestyles or those who play sports may accelerate spinal disc degeneration. Sports and other physically demanding activities can lead to the development of microtears in spinal disc.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
Do you have back or neck pain when you turn your body or when you bend to pick up something? Do you feel pain symptoms in the neck, shoulders, and arms or the lower back, buttocks, and thighs? How about numbness, weakness, and tingling in your feet or hands? All of these are symptoms of degenerative disc disease.
Symptoms that you may have a damaged disc also include pain that is worse when sitting down, in which case the degeneration is likely in the lumbar region, as this section of the spine is subjected to more pressure when seated.
Patients with degenerative disc disease often feel better when standing or running and even when lying down. Pain from degenerative disc disease is usually severe yet intermittent, sometimes lasting weeks or months, then disappears for weeks at a time.
Ultimately, degenerative disc disease is tricky to diagnose without medical imaging. The fact that pain is intermittent makes patients think that they have healed during periods of no pain, which causes them not to seek medical attention until the pain symptoms get a lot worse.
Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosis and Treatment in Michigan
Ahlgren Spine specializes in the treatment of a full range of spine disorders and conditions, including degenerative disc disease. Our goal is to identify the source of your pain and make a clinical diagnosis. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can start treatment. At Ahlgren Spine, we create highly individualized treatment plans for every patient.
To schedule a consultation with our orthopedic specialists, call Ahlgren Spine at (248) 215-8080 or request an appointment now. Our friendly staff looks forward to serving you in our Rochester Hills clinic.