Monday, 8 January 2018

Understanding Degenerative Disc Disease : Symptoms, Warnings And Risks

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In a young and healthy back, discs between the vertebra provide height and allow bending, flexion, and twisting. The discs are like shock absorbers between the bones of the spine and are designed to help the back stay flexible while resisting forces. As a normal process of aging, the rubbery discs begin to shrink and lose integrity.
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Nearly everyone shows some signs of wear and tear on the spinal discs as they age. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies show that almost everyone older than age 60 has degeneration of the discs, but not all those people have back pain. In some cases, the discs may collapse completely and cause the facet joints in the vertebrae to rub against one another, causing the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis .

Degenerative disc disease is when one or more of the discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column deteriorates or breaks down. It can lead to weakness, numbness and pain that radiates down the leg.
Despite its name, degenerative disc disease is not a disease, but a natural occurrence that comes with aging.

The changes in the discs can result in back or neck pain and/or:
◾Osteoarthritis, the breakdown of the tissue ( cartilage) that protects and cushions joints.
◾Herniated disc, an abnormal bulge or breaking open of a spinal disc.
◾Spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal , the open space in the spine that holds the spinal cord .
These conditions may put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, leading to pain and possibly affecting nerve function.

Symptoms Of Degenerative Disc Disease
Symptoms are most commonly concentrated in the low back or neck, depending on where the degenerated disc(s) are. Common symptoms include:

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  • Increased pain when holding certain positions, such as sitting or standing for extended periods (exacerbating low back pain), or looking down too long at a cell phone or book (worsening neck pain). 
  • Possible radiating pain that feels sharp, stabbing, or hot. In cases of cervical disc degeneration, this pain is felt in the shoulder, arm, or hand (called a cervical radiculopathy); in cases of lumbar disc degeneration, pain is felt in the hips, buttocks, or down the back of the leg (called a lumbar radiculopathy). 
  • Increased pain with activities that involve bending or twisting the spine, as well as lifting something heavy
  • A “giving out” sensation, caused by spinal instability, in which the neck or back feels as if it is unable to provide basic support, and may lock up and make movement feel difficult.
  • Muscle tension or muscle spasms, which are common effects of spinal instability. In some cases, a degenerated disc may cause no pain but muscle spasms are severely painful and temporarily debilitating.

Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, have had some success with a tissue engineering-based approach using stem cells . The aim is to encourage functional cartilage to generate itself, using an injectable hydrogel system. The researchers concluded that stem cell therapy might be useful for intervertebral disc regeneration.

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  2. Treatments For Degenerative Disc Disease + Diagnosis 
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Author: Richard Smith