Creating a free account will enable you to subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters, as well as customize your reading experience to show only the categories most relevant to you.
Signing up only take a few minutes, so why not give it a try and see what you've been missing out on.
Degenerative disc disease refers to the degeneration of at least one of the intervertebral discs of the spinal column. Some people may call it degenerative disc disorder.
This Medical News Today article includes an introduction into degenerative disc disease, a brief description, some basic information on intervertebral discs, details on the most common signs and symptoms, its causes, how the disease is diagnosed, and possible treatment options.
Degenerative disc disease is a "disease of aging", an age related disease.
Over the years and decades, the repeated daily stresses on the spine and occasional minor, unnoticed injuries, as well as major ones, begin to take their toll.
For most people the gradual degeneration of the discs is not a problem. However, in some cases it eventually causes severe, chronic and debilitating discogenic pain. Back specialists refer to pain caused by a damaged intervertebral disc as "discogenic pain".
Some people have degenerative disc disease and never experience any related symptoms.
Intervertebral discs, also known as intervertebral fibrocartilage or spinal discs, are the padding between each vertebra of the spine. They have an elastic structure, made of fibrocartilage tissue.
The outer part of the disc - annulus fibrosus - is tough and fibrous, and is composed of several overlapping layers.
The inner core of the disc - nucleus pulposus - is soft and gelatinous.
The intervertebral discs form the vertebrae's shock absorbers. They act as padding, and cushion the stress when the spine moves or bears weight.
These spinal discs also help the spine bend and then bend back to its normal curves.
In a healthy young adult the intervertebral discs consist of about 90% water. As we age the water content goes down, the padding becomes less thick and the spine becomes slightly shorter as a result. Sometimes the disc might bulge.
A symptom is something the patient feels and describes, while a sign is something others can detect. Pain is an example of a symptom, and a rash is a an example of a sign.
Many people may have degeneration of the disc and have no symptoms. Others, on the other hand, may experience pain that is so intense that they are unable to carry out their daily activities.
Apart from pain, there may also be tingling and/or numbness in the leg or foot.
Most patients find that the pain is worse when they are sitting. This is because the discs have more weight on them when the body is sitting.
When specialist doctors talk about degenerative disc disease, they are usually referring to a combination of spinal problems that start with damage to the disc, and eventually spread to other parts of the spine.
The Mayfield Clinic2 in Cincinnati, Ohio, says that degenerative disc disease pain frequently starts in one of three ways:
As the human body ages, the intervertebral discs degenerate (break down), which leads to degenerative disc disease in some individuals.
The changes that occur, due to aging, include:
This degeneration of the disc occurs more rapidly in obese individuals, people who do strenuous physical work, and regular tobacco smokers.
An acute (sudden) injury, as may occur after a fall, may accelerate the process of degeneration.
When the vertebrae have less padding between them the whole spine becomes less stable. The body tries to cope with this by building osteophytes, also called bone spurs. Bone spurs are small bony projections that develop along the edge of bones. These projections can press against the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots, which undermine nerve function and cause pain.
There is a condition called spinal stenosis, which occurs when the bone spurs grow into the spinal canal and press into the spinal cord and nerves.
The doctor will ask the patient about symptoms, where pain, tingling or numbness is felt and when, and which situations cause the most pain. Questions will also be asked about the patient's medical history and whether he or she had any falls, injuries or accidents.
The doctor will also carry out a physical examination, which may include:
The doctor may order the following diagnostic tests to either confirm a preliminary diagnosis, rule out some conditions or illnesses, or to gain more information:
Surgery may be recommended if the patient did not respond to conservative therapies within about three months.
Surgery may be considered as an option if:
The following surgical options are available:
Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, set out to determine whether a tissue engineering-based approach using stem cells, coupled with an advanced delivery system might encourage functional fibrocartilage generation.
The scientists developed an injectable hydrogel system based on enzymatically-crosslinked polyethylene glycol (gel) and hyaluronic acid.
After adding more substances to the hydrogel they injected it into patients. Their aim was to induce chondrogenesis (formation of cartilage) in mesnchymal precursor cells.
The researchers concluded in the journal Biomaterials5 that stem cell therapy has potential for intervertebral disc regeneration.
Written by Christian Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
Visit our Back Pain category page for the latest news on this subject.
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
Nordqvist, Christian. "What is degenerative disc disease?." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 26 Sep. 2013. Web.
11 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266630>
Nordqvist, C. (2013, September 26). "What is degenerative disc disease?." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
If you write about specific medications, operations, or procedures please do not name healthcare professionals by name.
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact the our editorial team, please use our feedback form. Please send any medical news or health news press releases to:
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.
This page was printed from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266630.php
Visit www.medicalnewstoday.com for medical news and health news headlines posted throughout the day, every day.
© 2004-2013 All rights reserved. MNT (logo) is the registered trade mark of MediLexicon International Limited.