The spinal column is composed of several integrated parts: The vertebrae protect the spinal cord, while intervertebral discs help to cushion those vertebrae and allow the spine to bend and turn. Disc degeneration, sometimes called degenerative disc disease, can involve a number of different changes to the discs that result in pain and discomfort.
Causes of Disc Degeneration
Disc degeneration often occurs with age. The intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers and can be put under a large amount of pressure, but over time, this stress can cause the discs to weaken. Each disc is filled with fluid that may decrease over time, making discs less flexible. If tears or cracks form on a disc, it may rupture or herniate and put pressure onto nearby nerves.
Symptoms of Disc Degeneration
Symptoms often depend on the location of the affected disc. Most individuals with disc degeneration experience pain or muscle spasms that get worse during physical activities, but some patients do not feel pain at all. Herniated discs that put pressure on nerves can lead to pain, numbness, or tingling in the affected area or in the limbs. Disc degeneration can also cause the body to form bone spurs to stabilize the spine, which can affect the spinal cord, leading to pain in the back or neck.
Treating Disc Degeneration
There are a number of treatment options available to relieve the symptoms of disc degeneration. Non-invasive options are often best, due to the delicate nature of the spinal column. Spinal decompression therapy is a treatment used to decompress spinal discs, helping to relieve herniated discs and remove pressure on nearby nerves. Chiropractic adjustments can also help realign the spine and relieve pressure on the discs. Physical therapy and exercise can help relax and strengthen the muscles of the back and neck, easing the pain caused by disc degeneration.
At SportsMed Physical Therapy, we use a variety of conservative, non-surgical techniques to treat disc degeneration. To learn more or to schedule a spinal evaluation, call us today at (201) 447-0346.