Degenerative Spine Conditions and Treatment

What is Degenerative Spine?

Degenerative changes in the spine are the ones that occur as we catch age, and these cause loss of normal structure or function of the spine.

The spine consists of bones called vertebrae. These are supported in between by the spinal discs, which are a soft gel-like sacs acting as shock absorbers between the vertebrae. These rubbery cushion like structures permit us to move freely without pain or stiffness, and provide flexibility to our spine.

However as we age, these spinal discs wear out and deteriorate. Conditions like bulging or ruptured discs occur as a consequence. Without these discs, the vertebrae may rub against each other, or may damage the spinal cord or the surrounding nerves.

Degenerative spine disease is not actually a disease but rather a condition, because it is a natural process that results due to aging.

What is the main Cause of Degenerative Spine Disease?

The main cause is age. With time, our spine also wears out as does the rest of the body. The spinal discs lose their fluidity and the cushioning effect is reduced, which makes them more prone to injury. The stress of daily activities may also cause small tears in the outer layer of these discs where the nerves are present. Such tears can become painful. If the outer layer breaks down, the central core may bulge outwards resulting in herniation or disc protrusion. Also, men are more prone to developing this condition as compared to women.

More factors that may result in a degenerative spine disease can be:

  • Trauma/ accident
  • Infection in the back
  • Mechanical cause, for example severe or excessive bending, twisting, lifting.
  • Repeated strains, sprains or overuse of the back
  • Lack of exercise or excessive exercise
  • Improper nutrition
  • Being overweight
  • Biochemical
  • Genetic
  • Smoking
  • Occupational
  • Conditions like Osteoporosis makes a person more prone to this condition as the bone density is decreased. This will result in easy fractures due to trauma, making the spine more at risk of injury.

What are the Symptoms?

Look for the following symptoms to identify whether you’re suffering from degenerative spine disease or not:

  • Back pain, especially when you bend or twist
  • Pain in the neck
  • Pain in the arm or leg
  • Pain that feels worse on sitting, and gets better when you move
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • Spinal deformities
  • Changes in sensations
  • Bowel, bladder or sexual dysfunction may occur

Anyone may has some degree of spinal degeneration, especially after the age of 40, but not everyone has symptoms. Psychological or social factors may also contribute to whether a person experiences these symptoms.

What are the Risk Factors?

Let’s take a look at some risk factors below:

  • Obesity
  • Excessive physical activity or work
  • Smoking
  • Sudden injury, trauma or fall

How is it Diagnosed?

The doctor will ask you questions regarding the pain and the back. He/she will take your complete medical history and talk about all the symptoms that you are experiencing. Doctor will also perform a physical examination, looking at your spine for details. You might be asked to walk, sit or bend to see which movements cause pain.

The doctor may also advise some tests and imaging studies like X-rays or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of your spine. A CT scan (Computerized Tomography) may also be performed in some cases. These tests are used to view the spinal cord, discs, nerves and the vertebrae. Another test known as discograms may be recommended to see if the pain is being caused by a damaged spinal disc.

What is the Treatment?

The exact treatment will depend on your symptoms, their severity and how serious the condition is.

  • Home Remedies – Remedies like applying heat on the area of the pain can be of great help. Rest along with heat fomentation can show great results.
  • Medicines – Over-the-counter pain killers like NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen or aspirin may be advised by the doctor to relieve the pain and decrease inflammation and swelling. If muscle spasms are present, drugs for them may also be given along with the pain killers.
  • Physical Therapy – This is very important to provide support to the back. Specific exercises designed according to your needs will be advised by the therapist, which will help to build the strength and flexibility of your back. Braces may also be prescribed to some people. In some cases, occupational therapy may also be included in the treatment. Usually, physical therapy and medicines are good enough for most people to control the symptoms and provide pain relief.
  • Steroid injections. If your condition is severe and over-the-counter medications are not working, stronger medicines like steroid shots may be given. These also help to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.
  • If all the solutions mentioned above don’t work, surgery may be performed. In this, the injured part of the disc is removed, which reduces the pressure from the nerves and relieves pain. If the disc is completely damaged, an artificial one may be placed instead.

We at Spinal Backrack do not recommend steroid, surgery, or any other invasive treatment modality due to potential side effects. If you’re suffering from back pain, please visit our home page to find non-invasive back pain treatment with absolutely no side effects. Treat the cause of pain, and not just the symptoms!