Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease

A common spine ailment, degenerative disc disease (DDD) occurs when the intervertebral disc deteriorates and causes chronic pain.

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

  • Aging can progressively change the protein and water content of your body's cartilage, which may cause the cartilage to break down over time. So, cartilage between the spinal vertebrae's discs and joints may become fragile and thin, which can wear down and degenerate.
  • Degenerative disc disease is a natural aging process that may affect your spine's vertebral discs, vertebral endplates, or facet joints, and may also affect your spine's surrounding tissues, including the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
  • When spinal cartilage degenerates and weakens, one or more discs may rupture or slip and cause herniation. This condition may cause deep, throbbing pain.
  • Different sections of the spine can be affected from a herniated disc, and pain may be localized in that specific affected area. The spinal cord, nerves, and blood vessels may also be affected.

What causes it?

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is also medically referred as spondylosis, or spinal arthritis. Vertebrae may become stiff and partially or completely lose its range of motion. This is a common disease that affects people of many ages, but more commonly found in the elderly. It may even develop in your teenage years and progress as you age.

Degeneration of your discs can affect different sections of your spine, and may change from one area to another over time. Known as the degenerative cascading of the spine, an injury or aging may affect the outer rings of the spinal disc and worsen over time. Or, ligament that connects two vertebrae may be torn and affect the internal structure of the vertebral discs.

Injuries may heal over time, but are susceptible for reinjures, leaving the discs almost incapable of natural healing. Over the different stages of DDD, you may experience deep, constant, and throbbing pain at extreme levels of discomfort. Pain may last a month or more and can come in spasms.

Depending on the area(s) affected, you may experience neck or back pain. Also, sitting, lying down, walking, or standing in a certain position may be painful.

How do you treat it?

Treatment for DDD usually begins conservatively to avoid surgery. Some conservative treatments include: exercises that may slightly help improve the affected discs' range of motion, different lengths of prescribed physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, or pain medications.

If these conservative methods only temporarily relieve pain, then epidural steroid injections may relieve pain for just a few months to a few weeks. These methods only temporarily treat the pain associated with DDD, and do not offer long-term results. If you seek long-term pain relief that promotes healing of the affected discs, then surgery may be your best option.

One surgical option is to receive an artificial disc replacement, which replaces the affected disc with an artificial implant.

However, the best surgical option for DDD is lumbar spinal fusion surgery, which fuses two vertebrae together to limit its range of motion and stop pain. The possible damaged disc and bone spurs are removed, and a bone graft is inserted between the vertebrae for healthy bone growth.

We offer minimally-invasive spinal fusion surgery performed by world-class neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons in the vacation paradise of Cayman Islands. To find out if you qualify for surgery with us, please take advantage of our free MRI review here.