Our spinal discs (made up of a combination of cartilage, collagen, and an inner gel-like core), are sandwiched in between the bones within our spine. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not just there for shock absorption, although that is a significant role they play. Discs are also crucial for allowing safe and efficient movement of the spine, as without them our spinal joint spaces would be much smaller and less mobile. Our spinal discs also protect and provide room for nerves to travel within and exit the spinal column itself.
While normal “wear and tear” on spinal discs (like any musculoskeletal structure) can occur with age, not everybody is consigned to damage and breakdown of the discs significant enough for dysfunction, pain, and other symptoms to develop. When this happens, a person can be said to have a condition known as “degenerative disc disease.” More of an injury and degradation process rather than a disease process, disc disease can cause a disc to become poorly oxygenated and perfused with blood (and it already has a limited blood supply as it is), abnormally shaped or positioned, less pliable, and/or generally worn down or torn. Concurrently, nearby joint spaces can decrease and bony spurs can develop, compounding the problem.
Symptoms of disc disease will vary depending on the location of the injured disc relative to other anatomical structures, as well as the severity of the damage that has occurred. Most of our patients who come to see us for degenerative disc disease issue complain of symptoms including pain that worsens with “BLTs” (bending, lifting, or twisting, or sitting); pain that decreases when walking or changing positions; pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms or legs; stiffness, pain, and muscle tenderness in the neck, upper back, or lower back.
Common Risk Factors for Degenerative Disc Disease
Anyone can get disc disease, but there are a few factors which may place you at a greater risk:
- A history of back injury
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Being overweight or obese
- Advancing age (although being in your 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s and highly active is also a known risk factor)
- The presence of other conditions including arthritis and osteoporosis
- Physically demanding jobs and/or participation in physically demanding activities (such as contact sports)
- A history of poor posture and/or body mechanics
Struggling with Disc Disease? Our Multidisciplinary Ramsey Pain Management Team Can Help
Disc disease can’t always be cured or prevented, but it can be well-managed, and you don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for effective care. At Progressive Spine & Sports Medicine, we consider it our mission to provide Northern New Jersey with the best of what modern day, non-surgical, medication-free pain relief has to offer. That’s why our Ramsey pain management team, led by Dr. Steven Ferrer and Dr. Kevin McElroy, are proud to offer a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic tools that have shown to be effective for reducing pain and other symptoms related to disc disease, including:
- Physical therapy, including manual spinal traction to help decompress and promote healing within injured or diseased discs, and therapeutic exercise prescription to improve the stability, strength, and endurance of your core musculature
- Minimally invasive pain injections, in which our doctors are highly trained, skilled, and experienced
- Additional advanced pain management strategies, including Botox, percutaneous electrical stimulation, and acupuncture
Do you believe you have a disc problem? Would you like to learn more about your relative risk factors and what you can do to protect the health of your spine? Contact Progressive Spine & Sports Medicine today to schedule an initial appointment with us. We’ll be honored to become a part of your healing journey, and we think you’ll be happy, too. To experience the difference with our Ramsey pain management team, call us now at (201) 962-9199.