Degenerative disc disease (DDD) refers to a common process that occurs when the cushions that separate the vertebrae at the lumbar or lower spine begin to break down and become depleted of their shock absorbing fluid. Occasionally, the discs may become weakened after an injury, but the most prevalent reason for a decrease in integrity is overuse and aging. Approximately one third of all adults between 30 and 50 years of age have the condition, and its presence is considered a normal finding on x-ray images after the age of 60.
Today, the experienced physicians at The Spine Institute in Beverly Hills, CA are going to share some of the primary symptoms and treatments for lumbar degenerative disc disease to help those with discomfort better understand the root of their pain and how to achieve a more comfortable life.
What are the Symptoms?
Many people with degenerative disc disease experience chronic mild to moderate lumbar discomfort that may radiate to the lower extremities and hips. The pain is usually described as an aching that becomes stronger when an individual is sitting. Bending, twisting, and lifting can also cause symptoms to worsen. Severely affected discs that put a lot of pressure on the surrounding spinal nerves may cause numbness, tingling, and weakness in the legs and feet.
What is the Prognosis?
Intervertebral discs are not supported by a blood supply, so they have no means to repair themselves. Many times, people are asymptomatic and unaware that they have compromised discs. When the shrinking discs become inflamed and press on the surrounding nerves, pain is often experienced. Additionally, discomfort is felt when instability causes excessive motion along the vertebral column. As time progresses, patients with degenerative disc disease tend to feel less lower back pain than when they were younger. The compromised discs eventually are depleted of inflammatory proteins and settle into a more stable, less uncomfortable position.
How is it Treated?
In most cases, the symptoms of degenerative disc disease can be treated conservatively with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Some people find that alternate applications of ice and heat are effective. Patients who are suffering with higher levels of discomfort or other symptoms that indicate nerve involvement may need to use prescription painkillers. Physical therapy may help some people. Less often, lumbar artificial disc replacement surgery or traditional spinal fusion surgery may be recommended when conservative methods fail to provide adequate relief.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms or have be diagnosed with DDD and would like to explore options for relief with board-certified spine physician in Beverly Hills, call The Spine Institute at (310) 828-7757 and request an in-person consultation.