Degenerative disc disease (DDD) – What is it?
Degenerative disc disease, or DDD, is considered part of the natural process of adulthood. When people become old, the inter-vertebral discs lose flexibility and the ability to absorb shock. External fibers known as the annulus fibrosis, which surround the disc, become fragile and are easily worn out. Likewise, the spongy core of the disc begins to dry out and decline. Damage to inter-vertebral discs, development of bone spurs, and thickening of muscles supporting the spine contribute to degenerative arthritis of your lower spine.
Indications of Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease can become painful, which could lead to various symptoms due to nerve root compression. Some of the symptoms include pain in the arms, back, legs, and neck. The diagnosis of DDD starts with a full physical examination. The doctor will check your back for flexibility, variety of motion, and warning signs that indicate nerve roots affected by degenerative changes.
This entails testing the strength of your muscles and reflexes to ensure that they still work properly. The patient is asked to complete a diagram indicating from where symptoms of pain, deadness, tingling and weakness are occuring. X-ray exams are conducted for patients afflicted with back pains. The x-rays will illustrate contraction of spaces between vertebral bodies if degenerative disc disease is positive. This implies that the disc has become emaciated or is on the verge of collapsing.
Bone spurs may also develop around the circumference of vertebral bodies and borders of surface joints near the spine. When the disc gives way and bone spurs take shape, the space between nerve roots begin to get smaller. In most cases, physicians will order Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computerized Tomography Scan to assess degenerative transformation in the lumbar spine. MRI is meant more for disc hernia while the CT scan analyzes bone anatomy in your spine.
Treatment of DDD
Medical practitioners will always discuss with patients possible treatment options. Traditional and non-surgical therapies are usually recommended for patients who do not have proof of nerve root compression with muscle flaws. These include taking of medications, exercise, physical therapy, and bed rest. Surgery will be an option only after conventional treatment is not able to alleviate pain, numbness, and weakness for a significant duration. Benefits of spine surgery should be weighed carefully against potential hazards. Your doctor needs to talk about risks and benefits of surgery with you along with possible results of operative as against non-operative remedies.