Like grey hair and wrinkled skin, many assume that back pain is something that will inevitably accompany getting older. For this reason, many people take for granted the serious pain that they feel and fail to understand that “old age back pain” is something severe that can be diagnosed and treated, especially when talking about degenerative disc disease.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is an age-related disease that can cause issues in the back including pain that is felt elsewhere in the body. As our bodies change with age, our spines are affected by repeated daily stress and major or even minor injuries. Spines begin to feel the wear and tear, and the discs in the vertebrae degenerate. Many people may feel no symptoms of this. However, there is an opposite end to that spectrum, and some people may feel an intense pain that is so awful that their daily activities are interrupted.
As we said above, this is an age-related disease, and its causes are related to such. One of the causes is a loss of fluid in the disc. This fluid acts as a cushion, and when it’s lost, the vertebrae are pushed closer together with less cushion, making them less effective. Additionally, small cracks/tears can develop in the outer layer of the disc. When this happens, the soft material inside the disc can spill out of those cracks, causing a bulge or rupture.
Of course, not all back pain is caused by this disease. So how can a doctor determine if back pain is DDD? The doctor will go through the usual procedure, asking questions about symptoms and pain, location of pain, tingling/numbness, medical history, injuries, and so on. After, they will issue a series of physical examinations based on those answers. These exams could involve checking nerve function and muscle strength, and/or diagnostic tests like CT scans or MRIs.
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatments
There is no current cure for degenerative disc disease. Fortunately, there are myriad treatment options for DDD, such as:
- Medication: depending on severity, degenerative disc disease can be treated with NSAIDs, anti-depressants, muscle relaxers, acetaminophen, or anti-inflammatories.
- Spinal adjustment: regular visits to a chiropractor for spinal manipulation can help to keep the spine aligned properly and alleviate pain.
- Regular exercise: regular, low-impact exercise is normally one of the best ways to help with the pain of many varieties. Specifically stretching, walking, and Pilates are among the most helpful regimens for sufferers of DDD.
- Acupuncture: non-traditional treatments include acupuncture, biofeedback, and even herbal remedies.
- Steroid injections: steroids injected directly into the lumbar region can decrease inflammation and help relieve pain.
- Surgery: surgery (such as disc replacement or fusion) are often last resorts when other treatment programs haven’t worked over a prolonged period and are to be discussed and determined with/by your doctor
- Stem cell therapy: with stem cell treatments, the patient’s cells are injected to promote healing of the injured cells.
Before taking medications or contemplating chiropractic visits, always consult with your doctor.
Degenerative Disc Disease Specialist
Just because you’re getting a little bit older doesn’t mean that you have to have inevitable back pain. For more information or to schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options, contact us at The Microsurgery Spine & Pain Institute.