Facts About Degenerative Disc Disease

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Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. Often misunderstood, many patients diagnosed with this condition are often clueless what the diagnosis meant for them.

There are various types of pain from degenerative disc disease and most of these pains vary in severity. The exact causes of severe pains are not known but there are theories that explain their occurrences such as the abnormal micro-motion in the degenerated discs causing an inflammatory reaction. The body reacts to the disc pain through muscle spasms and the reactive spasms is the source of the pain.

Severe episodes of back pain stemming from degenerative disc disease will last for several days to a few months before going back to the baseline level of chronic pain. The level of pain will vary from nagging pain to severe, debilitating pain, though this level is quite rare.

Common Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

Certain types of activities can worsen lower back pain while others actually makes the pain go away. For example, sitting for prolonged period causes strain in the lumbosacral discs because the force is three times more than just standing up. Lifting, bending or twisting usually worsen pain the lower back area.

Walking and even, running may actually help alleviate lower back pain. Pain is also decreased by changing positions frequently. Lying down is the best position since the stress on the disc space is relieved.

Pain from Degenerative Disc Disease

The lumbar disc is a structure in the spine which is able to withstand a tremendous amount of force in multiple planes of motion and yet, is very mobile. The lumbar disc acts as a shock absorber between the vertebral bodies. However, as strong as it is, it is also very delicate.  The lumbar disc, is similar to a jelly doughnut, it is composed mostly of a series of bands that form a tough layer and a soft jelly-like substance on the inside.

Main Parts of the Lumbar Disc

Annulus fibrosus

This refers to the tough outer part of the lumbar disc. The nerves to the disc space only penetrate into the outer portion of the annulus fibrosus. While there is little nerves to the disc, tears in the annulus can cause nerves to become sensitive and this causes pain. Continued degeneration will make the nerves on the periphery of the disc to grow into the disc space and causes chronic pain.

Nucleus pulposus

This is the jelly-like substance within the lumbar disc. The nucleus polposus contains inflammatory proteins that will quickly inflame when it come contact with a nerve root. When the nucleus polposus come in contact with a nerve root, it will cause pain down the leg, called sciatica or radiculopathy, and if the proteins leak out to the outer annulus and comes in contact with the pain fibers in that particular area, it causes lower back pain.

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