Degenerative Disc Disease
Degeneration of the intervertebral disc, often called “degenerative disc disease” (DDD) of the vertebral column, is a condition that can be painful and can greatly affect the quality of one’s life. While disc degeneration is a normal part of aging and for most people is not a problem, for certain individuals a degenerated disc can cause severe constant chronic pain.
After an injury, some discs become painful because of inflammation. Some people have nerve endings that penetrate more deeply into the annulus fibrosus (outer layer of the disc) than others, making discs more susceptible to becoming a source of pain. The scientific community has the opinion that the healing process involved in the repair of trauma to the outer annulus results in the innervation of the resultant scar tissue, and subsequent pain in the disc, as these nerves become inflamed by nucleus pulposus material. Degenerative disc disease can lead to a chronic debilitating condition and can have a serious negative impact on a person’s quality of life. When pain from degenerative disc disease is severe, traditional nonoperative treatment is often ineffective.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
With symptomatic degenerative disc disease, chronic low back pain sometimes radiates to the hips, or there is pain in the buttocks or thigh while walking; sporadic tingling or weakness through the knees may also be evident. Similar pain may be felt or may increase while sitting, bending, lifting, and twisting. Chronic neck pain can also be caused in the upper spine, with pain radiating to the shoulders, arms and hands.
Parts of the Spine and Healthy intervertebral disk (cross-section view).