Degenerative back conditions are spinal changes that most often occur during the aging process, usually after age 40, and they can sometimes result after repeated injuries to the area such as sprains, strains and overuse. Sometimes patients experience degenerative conditions that are asymptomatic, and some individuals develop painful problems as their spines change.
The following are several different spinal disorders that can develop because of degeneration, presented by the Santa Monica back surgeons at The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration.
Degenerative Disc Disease
When the normally supple and spongy vertebral discs begin to age, they start to dry out and get smaller. The shrinkage may cause pain when the vertebrae begin to rub against each other or press against the spinal nerves.
Spinal stenosis occurs when changes along the spinal column cause the canal to become smaller. The constricted area often results in nerve compression, and can result in pain, numbness and tingling that starts in the lower back and travels down the legs and into the feet. Cervical spinal stenosis can be dangerous because it can compress the spinal cord causing cervical myelopathy that is marked by generalized weakness and a deterioration in motor skills.
As the spinal column ages, arthritic changes in the vertebral column cause the bones to become stiff and develop spurs, or bony outgrowths. The spurs can contribute to spinal stenosis and cause pain when they get large enough that they compress the spinal nerves.
The slow breakdown of the vertebrae and discs can cause the discs to herniate, or bulge out of the line of the spinal column. The bulging protrusion may push up against the spinal nerves and cause an irritation that results in painful symptoms. Sciatica is commonly caused by a herniated disc in the lumbar region that constrict the large sciatic nerve.
A patient’s diagnosis and individual symptoms will help to determine the best treatment options. If conservative methods such as physical therapy and medications do not help to relieve pain, a number of surgical options could offer relief. In addition to traditional spinal fusions, advancements in technology and the industry have paved the way for more motion-preserving options such as cervical and lumbar artificial disc replacement.
To request more information or an in-person consultation to further discuss your surgical options, reach out to Dr. Bae of The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration and take the first step toward a pain-free lifestyle.