A disc is a structure found in between the small bones that make up your spine. The primary function of a disc is to help absorb the shock between connecting vertebrae. They also help hold the vertebrae together and support flexibility within the spinal cord. Inside of each disc is a soft, jelly-like substance that degenerates over time.
In most cases, disc degeneration is a natural process, however, sometimes this degeneration causes pain when the disc begins to exert pressure on the nerves. The intensity of this pain depends on where the degeneration occurs and how fast it is. Some people with degenerative discs may feel no pain at all. Inflammation and instability that generate muscle spasms are the most common cause of pressure on the nerves. This condition can occur in the cervical spine (neck) or the lumbar spine (back).
Pain from a degenerative disc primarily comes from inflammation and unstable micromotion. For the former, inflammation is caused by proteins that can either send low back pain that reaches down to the hips, sometimes to the back of a leg. When the inflammation occurs in the cervical spine, pain may shoot from the neck down to the hand. If unstable micromotion causes the pain, this means that the discs are not able to account for movement as well as before. Some of the more common pain symptoms are listed below:
- Pain made worse when sitting
- Increased pain when bending, lifting or twisting
- Relief when walking or moving
Treating painful disc degeneration usually involves a combination of three procedures: pain control, exercise, and changes in lifestyle. Pain control can include nonsurgical options like alternative or self-care treatments. However, if those approaches do not help alleviate pain, then a surgical approach such as spinal fusion or artificial disc replacement may be needed. Once you find a proper pain treatment and establish a recovery period, exercise with the help of a physical therapist can help reduce pain naturally. Changes to lifestyle are then considered to help prevent future instances of back pain.
Every patient who experiences back pain from degenerative disc disease will need their own, unique treatment. The Spine Institutes holds a team of spinal experts that can help find the best plan for you. Contact one of our New Jersey offices today to schedule an appointment.