Disc Desiccation: Degeneration of Vertebral Discs

Regular back pain comes as a prerequisite of growing older nowadays. This unpleasant sensation can be triggered by a variety of factors, some of which are natural and come with the passage of time. Your spine health is thus affected by a plethora of conditions as you age, and degenerative disc disease is one of them.

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Being informed on the topic is an essential part of dealing with the affliction properly and potentially delaying its onset. On top of having the proper knowledge of disc desiccation definition and treatment, you will also need to get familiarized with symptoms, causes, diagnosis and potential prevention tactics. Here is everything you need to know.

 

Definition

As you may very well know by now, your spine consists of vertebrae and discs. While the former is nothing more than a stack of bones, the latter consists of spongy and resistant formations placed in between each vertebra to absorb shock. Unfortunately, these protective little discs eventually get worn down by the passage of time.

This is known as disc degenerative disease, and desiccation is one part of it. The process is basically one of dehydration where all the fluid that keeps them strong and flexible is gradually replaced by fibrocartilage. Thus, the discs become as stiff on the inside as they are on the outside, which leads to complications in the long run.

 

Symptoms

When disc desiccation occurs, your spinal cord loses its flexibility because the fluid that once lubricated its padding is now replaced by tough fibrous tissue. Therefore, the very first symptom you will experience is back stiffness accompanied by a potential loss of mobility. Over time, more unpleasant indicators will start showing.

These include weakness, pain, a tingling sensation and even numbness in the lower back if a specific set of discs are affected. In more advanced cases, the discomfort will travel down one leg, or distress both of them at the same time. This leads to a deterioration in knee and foot reflexes that must be treated as soon as possible.

 

Causes

The natural wear and tear of old age is the main cause of disc desiccation. Nevertheless, it may also appear earlier in life due to trauma and injury caused by an accident. Sudden and drastic weight loss will also lead to similar results. Moreover, if you work in a field that involves heavy lifting, the deterioration process might also occur faster.

 

Diagnosis

If you have been experiencing one or more of the above-mentioned symptoms and have reason to believe that degenerative disc disease has started to set in your spine, then it’s time to visit your primary care physician and obtain a diagnosis. Your medical history and a physical exam to detect abnormalities and assess the back’s range of motion should be enough for this.

If palpation isn’t enough to determine whether or not your discs are starting to dehydrate, your doctor might decide to perform an X-ray, a CT scan or an MRI. The images obtained in this way are particularly useful because they can uncover additional issues that lie behind the stiffness and pain, such as herniated discs.

 

Treatment

Depending on how accentuated the desiccation is, there are several courses of treatment your doctor might prescribe you. If the severity is still mild, the best thing you can do is maintain adequate posture and weight and avoid activities that put a strain on your spine such as lifting heavy weights. For the most part, this will deliver visible improvement.

Nevertheless, more advanced cases will benefit from physical therapy and targeted massage sessions to strengthen and relax the core muscles surrounding the spine. This promotes mobility and can diminish aches as well. For additional pain alleviation, specialized medication will be prescribed. Corticosteroid spinal injections can also be helpful in more serious situations.

 

Prevention

At this point, the fact that disc desiccation is an expected outcome of aging is more than obvious. Therefore, while it might not be possible to completely prevent it, you have a chance of slowing the process down so that you can maintain your spine health for a longer time. Having the proper posture and keeping your weight under control are good starting points.

In addition, adopting a daily workout routine that engages the core as well can work wonders in this department. Stretching is also recommended, as is staying hydrated by drinking at least two liters of water each day. Finally, if you’re a smoker, you might want to give up on that nasty habit. One of its many health detriments is that it speeds up disc desiccation.

 

Conclusion

Disc desiccation occurs organically with the passage of time, and it is a part of a larger condition known as degenerative disc disease. If you start experiencing one or more of its symptoms, it’s best to see your primary care physician as soon as possible. Following a series of tests, he or she will determine what the best course of action is in your situation.