What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative Disc Disease is a condition where the jelly-like fluid in the disc between vertebrae starts to erode, preventing the disc from providing the protection and shock absorption it is supposed to provide to stabilize the spine.

 

 

 

 

Causes & Symptoms

The process of degeneration occurs naturally as people age, but several scenarios can rapidly speed up the process. A common cause is an acute injury that forces the disc to shift or herniate, leaving it more susceptible to damage. When the fluid in the disc is able to leak out, it can cause the disc to bulge or break apart, leaving the spine in an unstable state and unable to properly absorb the shock of normal activities. This process can also be exacerbated by obesity or cigarette smoking.

The result of the damage to the disc is that the body works to compensate, which is done by creating osteophytes, or bone spurs. These bone spurs can then put pressure on the many nerves that travel through the spine, as well as the spinal cord itself, which leads to nerve pain and numbness, potentially throughout the entire body. The condition can also present with osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint condition. The two are often seen together because the added stress on the spine from a degenerative disc also puts added wear and tear on the facet joints in the spine, leading to osteoarthritis.

Treatments

There are several options for treating Degenerative Disc Disease that do not require major surgery, one of which is called Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy. The process of PRP therapy is to take a sample of the patient’s own blood and uses a centrifuge to isolate the platelets, which are then injected into the injured area, allowing the body a better chance of healing the injury on its own.