Degenerative Disc Disease
The discs of the spine are normally soft and have a certain amount of moisture. These discs can lose their water content and height and become painful. Factors that may contribute to these undesirable changes include repeated heavy lifting and smoking.
A degenerated disc is different from a disc herniation in that degeneration can occur without a disc bulge. A degenerated disc does not necessarily extend beyond its normal border. Internal tears cause pain in the lower back and groin area. Degenerated discs are normally more painful in the morning and with prolonged sitting. Many attempts have been made to repair degenerated discs and while some techniques are promising, none guarantee pain relief.
Regular exercise, stopping smoking, and maintaining a normal weight and healthy lifestyle are the best way to prevent further deterioration. When conservative measures fail and when the pain is severe, several options for pain control exist. Epidural steroid injections can calm the nerves surrounding the degenerated discs. Spinal cord stimulation can replace the painful stimulus with a tingling sensation. A spine surgeon can fuse the vertebral bodies above and below the painful disc so that the disc is no longer challenged. Disc replacement is another promising option that could be discussed with a spine surgeon.
Degenerative disc disease is a very common condition and a focus of great interest and research. New treatments will be available in the next several years.
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