Degenerative disc disease is not, in truth, a disease. DDD is the result of aging and wear and tear on the spine.
While the condition of the discs is deteriorating in the case of DDD, the symptoms do not increase with time, as the name suggests. In fact, with the right therapeutic response, symptoms usually improve. This effect is best described by the degenerative cascade theory, most simply explained as the onset of pain due to dysfunction, a period of instability at the site of the degeneration at fault and finally, resolution.
The process described usually takes place over a period of between 20 and 30 years, which explains my patients over the age of 60 reports less pain from the condition. Adults between the ages of 30 and 50 report much more acute pain.
It’s estimated that 30% of people in this age group suffer from some degree of DDD.
Symptoms and diagnosis.
Pain which centers in the lower back and sometimes radiates down to the hips and even the legs is one of the primary symptoms of this condition. If the pain has persisted for more than 6 weeks, it’s important that patients attend their primary caregiver to seek an accurate diagnosis.
Sitting often exacerbates the pain, due to the additional pressure placed on the spine. But it’s often the case that walking is difficult, especially if the arc of the condition is at its apex.
Inflammation is the root cause of the pain experienced, but as part of the cascade of the condition, the proteins responsible for the inflammation eventually expire, causing the pain to subside.
DDD is most accurately diagnosed through a 3-step process, starting a with a thorough examination of the patient’s medical history. Description of the type of pain experienced and motions which exacerbate or provoke it, as well as which physical positions make the pain worse or better.
Step two is the physical examination, evaluating muscle strength and range of motion and points of tenderness or pain.
Finally, an MRI will determine the nature of the condition and rule out the possibility of other conditions which present similar symptoms.
Degenerative disc disease is routinely treated with conservative, non-invasive therapies like physical therapy (including evaluation of body mechanics). Minimally-invasive injection therapy, delivering steroidal medications to the site of the inflammation are also used, depending on the patient.
Surgery is only indicated in those cases that there has been no change in the patient’s pain levels over a 6-month period.
Spine Care NJ.
At Spine Consult NJ, we specialized in all conditions of the spine. Offering a wide range of treatments and therapies, we marry modern techniques with traditional orthopedic practice.
Our goal is to restore patients to full function, with the application of individualized care. If you believe you’re suffering from DDD, contact us for support.