The Many Problems That Can Develop From Degenerative Disc Disease

Wear and tear on your joints is one of the unfortunate aspects of aging. By age 60, almost everyone’s spinal discs show some signs of deterioration.

Degenerative disc disease occurs when the circular discs between the bones of your spine develop degenerative changes that prevent them from acting as shock absorbers. Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of low back and neck pain and can cause significant disability.

At the Spine Institute of Southeast Texas, board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Thomas Jones II has extensive experience diagnosing and treating a full range of orthopedic conditions, including degenerative disc disease.

We offer patients with degenerative disc disease comprehensive treatment options to treat your pain at the source. Left untreated, degenerative disc disease can lead to various complications.

Spinal discs

The moveable portions of the spinal column are composed of 24 individual bones (vertebrae) that make up the top three portions of your spine: your neck (cervical spine), upper back (thoracic spine), and lower back (lumbar spine). There’s a spinal disc between each pair of vertebrae. These discs have a tough exterior with a jelly-like core.

Spinal discs allow you to move and flex your spine without any pain by providing cushioning. As you age, the discs may become dry, develop tears, weaken, or become thin. By the time they reach age 60, most people have degenerative changes to their spinal discs. While some degeneration is a normal part of aging, not everyone will develop degenerative disc disease.

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease

In some people, spinal discs deteriorate and cause problems, including pain, abnormal sensations, and weakness. Symptoms vary depending on the location of the degeneration and the type of deterioration. Most people with degenerative disc disease experience chronic back and neck pain.

Complications of degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease requires prompt evaluation and treatment to reduce the risk of complications. Among the complications that may arise are bone spurs, spinal canal compression, pain, herniated discs, and bladder problems.

Bone spurs

As part of the degenerative changes, bone spurs may develop. These bony growths develop at the edge of bones. This is the body’s reaction to the degenerative changes of the spine. Bone spurs can cause significant pain.

Spinal canal compression

Degenerative changes to the spinal column can place pressure on the surrounding nerves, causing compression of the spinal cord. This is called myelopathy

A group of nerves run through nearly the entire length of your spinal column. Degenerative disc disease can cause these nerves to become irritated or compressed, causing abnormal sensations such as numbness and tingling, as well as weakness.

Debilitating pain

Without appropriate treatment, degenerative disc disease can cause lasting, debilitating back pain. The pain may become so severe that you find it difficult to carry out your normal daily activities. It can interfere with your mobility and your overall quality of life.

Herniated discs

Herniated discs are one of the most common causes of degenerative disc disease. This occurs when a spinal disc develops a weak spot and the spongy inner tissue bulges out into the spinal canal. Low back pain is a common symptom. If the herniated disc is pressing against a nerve, you may experience numbness and other abnormal sensations.

Loss of bladder control

A severely herniated disc in the lumbar spine due to degenerative disc disease can cause loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence). You may also experience low back pain, leg pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness.

Pain caused by degenerative disc disease can be debilitating. Early diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan can ease your pain and help you feel and function better. If you’re struggling with neck or back pain, our team of specialists can help. 

Contact The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas to schedule a visit with Dr. Jones at one of our three offices in Pearland, Houston, or Lake Jackson, Texas. Or you can book your appointment using the scheduler here on our website.

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