Degenerative disk disease is a gradual or rapid deterioration of the chemical composition and physical properties of the disc space. It can occur anywhere in the spine: low back (lumbar), mid-back (thoracic), or neck (cervical).
Under the age of 30, these disks are normally soft, and they act as cushions for the vertebrae. With age, the material in these lumbar disks becomes less flexible and the disks begin to erode, losing some of their height. As their thickness decreases, their ability to act as a cushion lessens. The less dense cushion now alters the position of the vertebrae and the ligaments that connect them. In some cases, the loss of density can even cause the vertebra to shift their positions. As the vertebrae shift and affect the other bones, the nerves can get caught or pinched and muscle spasms can occur.
Degenerative disk disease is primarily a result of the normal aging process, but it may be advanced as a result of trauma, infection, or direct injury to the disk. Heredity and physical fitness may also play a part in the process.
Fortunately, besides aging of course, the other causes are in large part preventable by living an active, healthy lifestyle! This can help reverse the effects of DDD and ideally prevent it from occurring in the first place.
The really good news is the vast majority of patients with DDD can be treated with conservative, non-operative measures!
If you or someone you know is suffering from symptoms of DDD, see your spine specialist to learn about treatment options.
Learn more about degenerative disk disease:
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What is an EMG or NCS?
What is physical therapy?
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