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What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease causes chronic pain in the neck and back and can occur in the cervical curve of the upper neck, to the thoracic curve in the middle of the back, to the lumbar curve in the lower back, to the sacral curve that ends with the tailbone. Degenerative disc disease is a misnomer, as degenerative disc disease is not really a disease.

Discs in the spinal column naturally degenerate with age, but in the case of degenerative disc disease, damage to a disc or discs allows the nerve root to penetrate beyond the outer section of the disc. This usually occurs through injury of some kind, which can result in a tear reaching this outer section. This tear reaching the outer layer can sensitize the nerve root.

Degenerative disc disease often worsens if the degeneration continues, and, in some cases, the nerve will grow further into the disc, eventually touching the inner, jelly-like substance, where a large amount of inflammatory proteins are found. When this jelly-like substance touches the nerve root, it inflames it, causing intense pain. As well, this jelly-like substance can leak out of the disc and come in contact with pain fibers.

Also, bulging discs can occur, which can sensitize the nerve root on the outer section by pressing on it. Doctors speculate scar tissue may be another cause of degenerative disc disease as, after an injury or surgery, scar tissue can build up and harden, then press on the outer disc and nerve root. Degenerative disc disease in the lower back can also result in sciatica.

Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease depend on where the degeneration occurs. When degenerative disc disease occurs in the neck or upper back, chronic pain can spread out to the shoulders, arms, and hands, and there may be some tingling in the hands, or stiffness in the shoulders, arms, or hands. When degenerative disc disease occurs in the lower back, it can result in pain spreading to the hips, buttocks, and thighs when walking or sitting.

Degenerative disc disease in these lower areas can also cause tingling or weakness in the knees. For people suffering with degenerative disc disease in the lower back, activities like bending, twisting, or lifting can cause intense pain.

Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment

To alleviate the pain caused from degenerative disc disease in the neck, upper back, or lower back, doctors will use non-invasive therapy first, with surgery being the final option. Non-invasive methods of treatment for degenerative disc disease include physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic treatments, medicines to reduce inflammation, and spinal injections.

Treatment for degenerative disc disease can also incorporate things the patient can do at home to decrease pain, such as applying heat to the affected area, doing prescribed exercises that use controlled motions to help keep the neck or back limber, changing positions often, and, if a person is in a job where they sit a great deal, stretching frequently, as sitting puts a lot of pressure on discs in the lumbar curve.

Also, laying down when the pain is intense takes all the pressure off the damaged discs. With proper treatment, the pain accompanying degenerative disc disease can, and often does, lessen.  Sufferers of degenerative disc disease can find a range of products to lessen the pain that their degenerative disc disease causes such as ergonomic lumbar cushions.

Upper Back Pain Cushions are great for excellent neck support, in addition to Ergonomic Lumbar Cushions and Lumbar Compression Back Braces to strengthen and support your back.  Click here to view a wide range of back pain relief products as well as Therapeutic Lumbar Cushions

- Back Pain Team

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