Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative Disc Disease is not actually a disease, but a term that is used to describe the natural changes occurring in the spinal discs as we age. Spinal discs are made of a hard and tough outer layer called the annulus and a soft, jellylike inside called the nucleus. Spinal discs are round and flat in shape and are located between each vertebra of the spinal cord, acting as shock absorbers for the spinal bones. As we age these spinal discs become worn with degenerative disc disease resulting.
Degenerative disc disease can result in the loss of fluid in the spinal discs, reducing the discs ability to act as a shock absorber for the vertebra. The loss of fluid leaves the spinal discs thinner and in turn the space in between the vertebrae becomes narrower. Tears or cracks can also be another symptom of degenerative disc disesase, the annulus will crack and the nucleus will be forced out do to normal daily movements. If the nucleus is forced out it can cause the disc to rupture or break into fragments, which is called a herniated disc. As the space between the sets of vertebra become smaller and less stable the body will react by creating bony growths called bone spurs. These bone spurs or osteophytes can create pressure on the nerves running along the spinal cord or the spinal cord itself, leading to affected nerve function or back pain.