When Your Discs Degenerate

In this month’s first blog we gave an overview of our spinal discs, the 23 tough shock absorbers that are located between our vertebrae in the spinal column. These discs are placed under an incredible amount of stress over our lifetimes, and they are remarkably strong.

But as with most things, nothing lasts forever. Our spinal discs are prone to degeneration as we age, and this leads to problems such as spinal stenosis, sciatica, and other pain-creating problems.

At DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, Dr. Tinley focuses on helping patients overcome the pain that is originating with their degenerating spinal discs.

What do our discs degenerate?

Over time, our discs become less and less liquid. They dehydrate, and this makes them become stiffer. You could compare them to a substance such as spackle used to fill a hole in the wall of your house or apartment. When new, the spackle is very moist and pliable. But as it ages, and if it is exposed to air, if you open the container the spackle is now more dry and is likely cracked. Placing this into a hole in the wall won’t be anywhere as pliable, or effective, as when the spackle was moist.

Our dry discs become less able to adjust and mold when compressed. This is called degenerative disc disease. This term is applied to the degeneration of our discs over time. It isn’t a disease; it is a condition in which natural age-related wear-and-tear on a disc causes pain, instability, and other symptoms.

Disc degeneration is a natural part of aging, and over time everyone will have changes in their spinal discs. In many people, these changes don’t result in pain or even any symptoms. In others, it results in chronic pain due to nerve compression caused by the degrading discs.

Degenerative disc disease can lead to or accelerate these spinal problems:

  • Spinal stenosis — Narrowing of the spinal canal or the areas where the nerve roots exit the spine, leading to pinching or compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots.
  • Osteoarthritis — In the spine, this wear and tear form of arthritis causes changes in the facet joints at the back of the vertebrae that originate in the deteriorating discs.
  • Spondylolisthesis — Degraded discs can lead to this condition where a vertebral body slips forward.
  • Scoliosis — If discs degenerate in a lopsided fashion, a curve can develop in the spine.

At DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, Dr. Tinley addresses chronic pain that is often due to degenerating spinal discs. If you’re suffering from chronic back pain or pain that is radiating down into your arms or legs, please give us a call at (817) 916-4685 to schedule an appointment.

Posted in: Degenerative Disc Disease

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