The spine is subject to a series of changes that occur with age, and these changes to the spinal anatomy can be the cause of pain, instability, and discomfort during everyday activities. One of the most noticeable results of the aging process in the spine is the degeneration of the spinal discs.
Degenerative disc disease is an incredibly common condition among aging individuals, although it does not always show itself in noticeable symptoms. Here is a look at how degenerative disc disease progresses so that you can identify whether or not it is the cause of your back pain:
- Flattening of the disc: As the body gets older, softer structures have a hard time retaining water and they begin to dehydrate. Because the discs are composed of a significant proportion of water, they will flatten as they dry out. This can generate pressure on the spinal nerves as the vertebrae lose their cushioning.
- Bulging or breaking of the disc: Degenerative disc disease can cause associated problems in the spinal discs, such as hemorrhage or rupture. This occurs because the vertebrae push down on the weakened disc, and the gel-like fluid inside is forced outward.
- Grinding of the vertebrae: If disc degeneration becomes severe enough, the vertebrae can collapse onto one another. As you try to move throughout the day, the vertebrae can grind against each other because they have lost the padding support of the soft discs. At this stage, there is also significant instability of the spine. Earlier stages of degenerative disc may respond to more conservative treatment, but when most of the disc has been lost, surgery may be the only effective route to recovery.
If you want to learn more about degenerative discs and how you can promote healthier aging in the spine, visit Pain and Wellness Center in the Boston area. Call us at (978) 826-7230 today or visit our website for information about our interdisciplinary pain management therapies.