As you age, the cushioning in your spine starts to wear down, causing disc degeneration. In other words, disc degeneration, also known as spine degeneration, refers to a condition in which the discs in the spine deteriorate.
For some, disc degeneration can lead to severe neck and lower back pain as well as leg pain. Therefore, learning the causes and risk factors of this often-painful condition can help with diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Let’s learn more about this typical condition, its causes, risk factors, and where you can go in Michigan for effective pain management.
What is Disc Degeneration?
Your spine is made up of bones called vertebrae separated by rubbery, cushion-like spinal discs. These discs have a thin, fibrous outer layer and a softer jelly-like center. Spinal discs allow your body to bend and twist while providing shock-absorbing cushioning between the vertebrae.
Disc degeneration happens when the center of the spinal disc begins to wear, causing the disc to break down and eventually deteriorate. When a spinal disc begins to deteriorate, it causes the bones in your spine to push outwards into the nerves that they supporting your back. Without the cushioning of the spinal discs, the bones will start to rub together, often leading to pain and other serious spinal problems.
Disc degeneration is a natural part of aging and is most common in older adults over the age of 40.
Causes and Risk Factors of Disc Degeneration
Most adults over 40 will experience some form of disc degeneration, but not all will develop the associated symptoms. In fact, only about 5% of adults will experience pain caused by degenerated spinal discs.
Some causes of disc degeneration and spinal pain include:
- Disc dry out: The soft core of your spinal discs is made up of mostly water. As you age, the core will naturally lose some water, causing the disc to thin out. Without that added cushioning, your spinal disc loses its ability to provide shock absorption, increasing the likelihood of you experiencing pain from your bones rubbing together.
- Tears or cracks: Minor injuries can create small cracks in spinal discs, often near nerves. If the outer wall of the disc cracks open, it can cause the disc to bulge out of place(a condition known as a herniated disk). This bulging creates compression on the spinal nerve, leading to more severe pain.
While disc degeneration can occur naturally as you age, several factors can put you at a higher risk of speeding up the degenerative process. These factors include:
- Family history
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Traumatic injuries
Common symptoms of disc degeneration include pain in the neck or lower back that’s worsened when sitting, bending, or lifting, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs, and weakness in leg muscles.
When left untreated, severe disc degeneration can lead to chronic pain in the neck and back that worsens with time.
Disc Degeneration Diagnosis and Treatment in Michigan
If you are experiencing painful symptoms associated with disc degeneration, it’s best to seek treatment as soon as possible. Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bradley Ahlgren and his team at Ahlgren Spine Orthopaedic Surgery are ready to provide you with comprehensive evaluation and treatments tailored to your condition.
To know more about our services or schedule an appointment with Dr. Ahlgren, call us today at (248) 215-8080 or fill out our convenient online appointment request form. Let us help you find the relief you need!