Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease in the Neck

Cervical degenerative disc disease is considered part of the natural aging process with discs losing their shock-absorbing abilities, and flexibility, as we get older. Discs in the cervical spine are put under stress and strain every day, with both chronic and acute trauma leading to chronic and acute neck pain. Pain may also be caused throughout the upper back, with shoulder pain, jaw pain, and headaches experienced by many with degenerative disc disease in the neck.

Disc Anatomy

Discs consist of a soft-gel center called the nucleus pulposus surrounded by a fibrous capsule called the annulus fibrosis. The gel-like center can become dry and shrunken over time, and the fibrous outer shell may become brittle and liable to rip or warp, leading to herniation or a bulging disc. Everyone experiences some degree of disc degeneration as they age, but not everyone experiences cervical spine pain. Disc degeneration will generally lead to a narrowing (stenosis) of the cervical spine, with resultant pressure on the structures contained therein, such as the nerves and blood vessels of the neck.

Degenerative Disc Disease

How DDD is Diagnosed

Diagnosis is usually arrived at through the use of x-rays, MRI and CT scans. These can highlight structural abnormalities and show spinal stenosis and compression of the vertebra. The use of selective nerve root blocks may assist physicians in isolating the problematic disc prior to treatment, and frequently provide relief from the associated pain after this diagnostic procedure. Treatments may involve gentle, non-invasive spinal decompression using devices for neck pain relief.

Medications and Treatments

Medications, such as analgesics and anti-inflammatories are usually incorporated into a therapeutic plan, whether these are conventional NSAIDs or natural alternatives for alleviating inflammation and pain. Surgery is usually a last resort for degenerative disc disease, and takes the form of discectomy, disc replacement, spinal fusion, and laminectomy amongst other procedures. As always, surgery has complications and other methods of treatment should be exhausted prior to irreversible surgical intervention.

Next read about: Degenerative Disc Causes

Last Updated: 10/04/2010