Degenerated discs, as I noted previously, are such a common phenomenon, that they can almost be considered normal.
They are not, however, normal and can be a source of pain. Typically they will not become a source of pain until the degenerative process has progressed to the point of an accompanying disc herniation, or that the disc has degenerated so much that it has collapsed in volume, putting lots of pressure on the vertebra below and above. When this happens, as it frequently does in certain individuals, it can result in swelling of the vertebrae above and below as well as arthritis and degeneration of the joints. In response to this excessive pressure on the joints, the joints enlarge and when they enlarge, they encroach on the normal space where the nerve roots reside. This can contribute to pinching of nerve roots.
In terms of the degenerative disc process, you can liken the process, or the disc, to an inflated tire that deflates. When the disc deflates or collapses there is much more pressure on the bones. This is what sets off all of the arthritic bony changes to the vertebrae and results in what we call arthritis or degeneration of the bones or spondylosis. All of the subsequent degenerative changes of the bones and even of the associated ligaments in the area happen after the disc degeneration process. The more the disc degenerates, the more it collapses or flattens out, and the more pressure is on the bones and joints, which in turn results in enlargement and swelling of the bones. The bones then become deformed and we see this on x-rays. In the early part of the process disc degeneration can only be appreciated on a MRI scan. Later as it progresses and the disc collapses we can see it on x-rays.
Once again, it is the degenerative process of the disc which results in collapse and pain from compression of the spine. And once again, this is why spinal decompression treatment, is the most effective means of treatment for this problem, in order to try to avoid the need for surgery. Surgery in this case of disc collapse, would involve raising collapsing disc and vertebra, with a bony fusion surgery. This is a significantly more involved surgery than a simple micro-discectomy for a disc herniation. As a result this surgery should be avoided, whenever possible, especially in younger people. Theoretically, there is cause for concern in doing a fusion in a person that is young because fusing one joint, or one level, will result in more stress on the adjacent levels and is thought, likely, to increase the rate of degeneration at those levels, potentially requiring subsequent surgical treatment at other levels. Therefore, whenever possible, it is important to treat degenerative disc disease non-surgically. And spinal decompression treatment, such as I provide, is the most effective way to do that.
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