Are You At Risk for Degenerative Disc Disease?

Are You At Risk for Degenerative Disc Disease?

More than one-quarter of people show signs of degenerative disc disease, which leaves them more prone to painful conditions like herniated discs. Here’s a look at what may be placing you more at risk.

Your spine provides foundational support for your entire body so you want to ensure it’s in great health. Unfortunately, degenerative disc disease affects more than one-quarter of the population in the United States, leaving them more vulnerable to some painful back conditions, such as herniated discs.

As spine health experts, Dr. Rajiv Sood and the team here at Spine & Orthopedic Center understand all too well how an issue like degenerative disc disease (DDD) can lead to ongoing back pain.

In this month’s blog post, we take a closer look at a few factors that place you more at risk for DDD and how we can fight back against disc-related back pain.

The role your discs play

Your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae that stretch from the base of your skull down to your pelvis. To hold your spine together and to provide critical cushioning and support between the bony structures, your spine is equipped with 23 intervertebral discs.

Each of these discs is made up of a tough outer layer called your annulus fibrosus, which houses a jelly-like interior called the nucleus pulposus. 

This soft, liquid-like interior, along with a tough exterior, allow your discs to act as shock absorbers in your spine and they also allow movement along your spine, especially in your lumbar spine (low back) and cervical spine (neck).

Behind the degeneration

When your discs degenerate, it’s largely due to two forces:

  1. Dehydration, which makes them more brittle and flat
  2. Wear-and-tear

In less common cases, an injury to your back can damage your disc, which can lead to premature degeneration.

However, the discs degenerate, the end result leaves you more vulnerable to some fairly painful conditions, such as a herniated disc. This condition occurs when a disc leaks some of the inner contents into your spinal canal, which can irritate the sensitive nerve roots in the area. 

Factors that place you at risk for degenerative disc disease

Because DDD contains the word degenerative, it follows that age plays a significant role. In fact, many view DDD as a natural part of the aging process.

While there’s not much we can do about the passage of time, there are some other factors that may accelerate these natural, wear-and-tear processes in your discs, starting with carrying extra weight. When you’re overweight or have obesity, you’re placing added pressure on the discs in your spine, which can cause them to wear down more quickly.

Another issue that can lead to DDD is not having adequate core muscle strength. Your spine hardly works alone and relies on surrounding tissues to provide support, namely your core muscles — the muscles in your back, your abdomen, and in your sides that attach to your spine or pelvis. When these tissues are weak, more of the burden falls to your spine.

Other risk factors for DDD include:

  • Overstressing your back through sports or activities that require lifting
  • Poor posture
  • Too much sitting, which loads your lumbar spine

As you can see, there are risk factors for DDD that are within your control to remedy and we can help you devise the best plan.

When disc-related back pain strikes

If you do develop back pain due to DDD, we offer a wide range of treatment options to help you find relief, including:

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of the many resources we have to help you regain pain-free movement.

If you have more questions about degenerative disc disease, as well as your treatment options, we invite you to contact our office in Jonesboro, Georgia.