Our spine is made up of boney blocks called vertebrae. Separating each vertebrae are cartilage discs. These discs can wear down with time and use, which lead to the diagnosis of degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease can be considered a relatively normal process that occurs in the spine. Unfortunately, it can also be associated with considerable pain and disability for some individuals.
Facts About Degenerative Disc Disease
In a nutshell, degenerative disc disease is a process that occurs over a considerable length of time. Various factors (age, genetics, occupation, previous trauma) wear the disc down and cracks can form. The jelly like material on the inside dries up and the overall height of the disc decreases. The surrounding joint structures (such as ligament, bone and cartilage) can also be involved. Significant reduction in disc height can also affect the nerves that exit at each level of the spine.
Who Gets Degenerative Disc Disease?
For many people, signs of degenerative disc disease begin when they are in their twenties. Although the prevalence of degenerative disc disease increases with age, genetics seem to be the best predictor of those who will be prone to the condition. The activities that you do on a regular basis also seem to play a role. I often use the analogy of the tires on your car; you can’t expect to drive your car day after day and not see any wear in the tires. Your spine (and the discs in your spine) is somewhat similar.
Disc Bulge or Disc Herniation?
An easy way to understand the intervertebral disc is to picture a jelly donut. There is an outer crust to the disc and an inner jelly material. Simply stated, a disc herniation is when the crust is torn right through to the jelly in the middle and the jelly pushes out of the crack. A disc bulge is when the jelly in the donut squishes really close to the edge of the donut (because there are tears in the crust) but the jelly doesn’t pierce through the entire dough to be visible from the exterior.
Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease
Surgical treatment for degenerative disc disease is usually viewed as a last resort if conservative treatment didn’t do the job. Conservative treatment usually consists of treatment like chiropractic, physiotherapy, laser therapy, acupuncture and massage therapy. At Burlington Sports Therapy we have a variety of treatment techniques and services that can assist patients with degenerative disc disease. What is right for each individual patient depends on a variety of factors, including duration of symptoms, severity of symptoms and previous failed treatments.
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