Our spinal columns consist of a cord of nerves, protected a series of small bones (vertebrae) that are cushioned against one another by discs of cartilage and fibrous tissue. As you might imagine, stress or damages relating to the nerves, vertebrae, and discs can be a rather painful experience and may require medical intervention.
Chronic pain in the spinal discs can be symptomatic of many different health conditions, but the causes tend to be classifiable in two major categories:
Degenerative Disc Disease
The name “degenerative disc disease” is a bit misleading, as it seems to suggest a specific pathological condition. In actuality, the name is simply a general descriptor for pain and weakness caused by wear and tear on the spinal discs. As they are worn away and/or become more brittle, it may result in vertebrae colliding with one another or pinching nerve endings.
Degenerative disc disease can be a product of many different elements, including:
- Age – as we get older, water content in the cartilage tends to diminish and fibrous tissue tends to harden.
- Injuries – trauma resulting from falls, sporting activities, etc. can cause physical damage to either the discs or to the vertebrae (which may in turn result in irritation of the discs and surrounding tissue).
- Poor health habits – obesity, as well as heavy smoking and/or drinking, can increase the rate of natural, age-related degeneration.
- Genetics – some individuals are naturally more susceptible to degeneration, especially in combination with one or more of the above factors.
Nerve compression and irritation in the spinal column’s center can occur even without serious damage to the discs or cartilage. When nerves are pinched by slipped discs, the pain (which may be present in the legs as well as the back) can be intense and unlikely to resolve without intervention.
Herniations are generally caused by physical trauma, such as lifting heavy objects with poor form or sustaining a sports-related injury, but any existing degeneration of the discs can increase the likelihood of complications considerably.
Contact the spinal health professionals at Atlanta Spine Surgery for more information on disc pain, or to schedule an appointment.