Some medical conditions result more from regular wear and tear than anything else; deteriorating disc disease is one such condition. It is most commonly caused by the regular wear and tear of discs in the spine, and there is little that can be done to prevent it. A doctor diagnoses the condition after a physical examination and an imaging test such as an MRI or a CT scan.
Deteriorating disc disease, more commonly known as degenerative disc disease, is a condition that is nearly impossible to prevent. It results from the natural process of aging, and it can cause painful back problems as we get older. As the human body ages, the discs between the bones in the spine lose their elasticity. They become less able to cushion the spinal cord from sudden impacts, and they also start to slip out from between the bones in the spine and become herniated discs. According to the medical experts at Caring Medical and Rehabilitation, every person is susceptible to degenerative disc disease. The severity of the condition varies from person to person.
There are many different names for the various kinds of degenerative disc disease, and their names indicate where the condition is occurring. Cervical disc disease affects the discs in the upper part of the spine and the neck, thoracic disc disease refers to the discs in the middle of the back, and degenerative disc disease in the lower part of the spine is called lumbago because it affects the lumbar part of the spine.
The main symptom of degenerative disc disease is back pain. The pain originates, and is usually at its strongest, in the middle of the back. However, as discs start to slip out of place and put pressure on nerves, "referred pain" may result. Referred pain is pain that originates in one spot but is felt somewhere else. A good example of referred pain due to degenerative disc disease is sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body; it starts in the lower back and then branches down to each leg. Pressure put on the sciatic nerve in the lower back does not create pain in the lower back; instead, it creates pain in the buttocks and the leg. With degenerative disc disease, referred pain can occur anywhere in the arms or legs, and sciatica is only one example of a referred pain condition.
If degenerative disc disease is left untreated it can result in permanent loss of the use of an arm or leg. The initial pain associated with the condition is a burning and constant pain. Over time that pain will evolve into a tingling sensation and there will be less sensitivity in the affected limb. Eventually the limb will go numb and can no longer be used. The longer a disc is allowed to put pressure on a nerve, the more permanent the nerve damage becomes.
Treatment of degenerative disc disease depends on where it is occurring, and how extensive it is. Physical therapy is normally used to help develop an exercise program that will strengthen the muscles around the disc, and help keep the disc in place. In some cases a doctor may prescribe pain medication to give temporary relief, and in extreme cases surgery may be used to relieve pressure from the nerve and prevent permanent damage.