What You Need to Know about Degenerative Disc Disease

By: Young Sang Lee

Degenerative disc disease describes the changes that occur within an individual’s spinal discs with aging. Spinal discs act as cushions for the spine, allowing it to twist, bend and move without compromising the nearby critical nervous structures. As a person ages, the spinal discs (most often in the neck and lower back areas may dehydrate, forming cracks and annular tears. The cushioning fluid inside the disc disappears and the spine loses its flexibility. The body tries to compensate for it by thickening the surrounding ligaments and forming new bony bridge to try to stabilize the spine.

This can cause a variety of spinal issues, including bulging and herniated discs, osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis. Based on a number of factors, these issues may be treated by physical therapy, spinal injections, or eventually surgery. Commonly, surgery often involves removal of the compressive anatomy while trying to preserve the motion integrity of the spine. Sometimes, hardware needs to be placed and a fusion performed if the spine has become unstable. Other times, some patients may be good candidates for an artificial disc to replace the degenerated disc in the neck or back.

Though degenerative disc disease occurs naturally through age, certain factors may accelerate the process, such as smoking cigarettes, obesity, accidents and heavy physical labor.

If you are or someone you know is experiencing back or neck pain during simple daily activities and have a degenerative spinal problem, contact Dr. Gantwerker at The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles and schedule an appointment.

Using medical history and physical examination, Dr. Gantwerker will be able to determine how best to proceed. If surgery is needed, Dr. Gantwerker is fellowship-trained in spinal surgery and is an expert in minimally invasive microsurgical techniques. Our goal is to get you back to the life you want to live. We will be with you every step of the way.

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