Back problems have become almost a daily part of life, so it can be easy to write off the pain and ignore it. However, leaving a serious problem like degenerative disc disease unchecked could have you dealing with lifelong issues.
Here, our team of experienced doctors at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery highlights the earliest warning signs of degenerative disc disease, so you can take action as soon as possible.
Why do discs degenerate?
The discs in your spine have a soft inner core and a tough outer wall, giving them the power to be both flexible and sturdy. However, they wear down over time and go through a process called degeneration. Drying out, cracking, and tearing often accompany disc degeneration.
The inner core of your discs is made mostly of water, which dries out as you age. As a result, your discs thin out and stop providing shock absorption. Cracks and tears in your discs can also be painful and lead to other conditions, like herniated discs.
It can be tricky to tell the difference between disc degeneration and regular back pain, so we look for some key details. Here are a few indicators that tell us your back pain stems from degeneration.
You're in a lot of pain
You've likely experienced the aches and pains of daily life that settle in your back, but degenerative disc disease pain is a different story. Degeneration in the structures that cushion your spine may cause sharp, constant pain in your back and neck. Many experience severe, nagging pain that lasts from a few days to a few months.
If your pain feels worse than a run-of-the-mill backache, don't hesitate to come see us for an evaluation — you could be in the throes of a severe back problem.
Your pain radiates
Your spine is the headquarters for your entire body. So, it's no wonder that a problem in your spine would mean radiating pain to other areas. Degenerative disc disease can cause pain in your lower back, buttocks, and even down your legs. You may also notice muscle tension or spasms.
Your pain changes with movements
Another telltale sign that your discs are degenerating is that you can manipulate your symptoms. You may feel worse when you sit, lift, bend, and twist; but better when you move, stretch, and walk. Note any movements that improve or worsen your pain and let us know at your appointment.
I have degenerative disc disease. Now what?
If you suspect your symptoms are consistent with the early warning signs, don't panic. Our team has years of experience identifying and treating many causes of back pain, including degenerative disc disease.
We discuss your medical history and symptoms with you to better understand your situation. We may ask:
- When your pain started
- Which part of your spine hurts
- If you have pain in other areas
- If you've had spine injuries in the past
- If you have a family history of similar problems
Sometimes, we need an X-ray or MRI to confirm our diagnosis. It's also common for us to have you walk or bend to see which movements exacerbate your pain.
Once we've determined that you have degenerative disc disease, we create a customized treatment plan to help you feel better and slow the progression of the disease. Your plan may include:
- Physical therapy
- Back brace
- Custom orthotics
- Steroid injections
- Electrical stimulation
We only recommend addressing degenerative disc disease with surgery in the most severe cases. We monitor your progress closely and discuss your surgical options if more conservative options aren't working.
Don't accept your symptoms as a part of life — find out what's really going on with the help of our experts. Call or click to schedule an appointment today.