Degenerative Disc Disease is not a disease in the real sense. It is a term which is used to describe normal changes within spinal discs as people age. Spinal discs are basically soft & compressible discs which separate interlocking bones (vertebrae) making up the spinal column. These discs act as shock absorbers for spine while allowing it to twist, bend & flex. Degenerative disc disease can in some cases take place throughout the spine, but in most instances it occurs in discs of the lumbar region (lower back) & the cervical region (neck). These changes in discs often result as neck or back pain & develop the following conditions.
- Osteoarthritis – This is breakdown of cartilage tissue which protects & cushions bone joints.
- Herniated Disc – This is usually a breaking open or an abnormal bulge of a spinal disc.
- Spinal Stenosis – This involves narrowing of the spinal canal which is the open space within spine holding the spinal cord.
Most of these conditions put pressure on nerves & the spinal cord & eventually lead to pain with a possibility of affecting nerve function.
Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
Spinal discs usually degenerate or break down as people age. This may quite often result in degenerative disc disease in some people. Normally, these age-related changes include the following.
- Loss of Fluid in Discs – This condition usually reduces the ability of discs to act as shock absorbers & also makes then less flexible. Loss of fluid in discs also makes them thinner while narrowing the normal distance between the vertebrae.
- Tiny Tears or Cracks in Outer Layer of Discs – These tears & cracks within the annulus or capsule (outer layer) of the discs basically hold jelly like material inside the nucleus of discs. However, these may be forced out through tears & cracks appearing in the capsule. This may also eventually cause the disc to bulge, rupture (break open) or disintegrate into fragments.
These changes are most often found to occur among people who smoke cigarettes & also indulge in doing heavy physical work like repeated heavy lifting. People who are obese are also most likely to have these signs & symptoms of degenerative disc disease. Acute (sudden) injuries are also found to lead to herniated disc & subsequently may begin a degeneration process. As spaces within vertebrae begin to get smaller, there is less padding left between them. This will cause the spine to become less stable. The body will also eventually react to these constructing bony growths called osteophytes (bone spurs) & may also put pressure on spinal nerve roots or upon the spinal cord so as to eventually result in pain & affect nerve function as well.
Signs & Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
Most often degenerative disc disease results in neck of back pain, but this commonly varies from one person to another. There are many people who have no pain, while many others with the same level of disc damage experience severe pain which limits their activities. Occurrence of pain also depends upon the location of the degenerated disc. Affected disc within the neck area may generally result in arm or neck pain, while affected disc in lower back region may result as pain in leg, buttock or in the back. This pain is also found to get worse with movements like twisting, reaching up or bending over. Quite often pain may start following a major injury like from a car accident, a minor injury like a fall from low height or from some normal motion like bending over to pick up something. Sometimes pain may also start gradually for no reason at all & eventually worsen over time. Then there also are cases where patients experience tingling or numbness in arms or legs.
Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is normally diagnosed with a physical examination & the patient’s medical history. Doctors will usually ask patients about their symptoms, illnesses or injuries, previous treatments, activities & habits which may be causing pain in legs, buttocks, back, arms or neck. During physical examination, doctors will look for the following.
- Check pain caused by movement & affected area’s range of motion.
- Look for nerve-related changes & areas of tenderness including changes in reflexes, weakness, tingling or numbness in affected area.
- Check for other conditions like infections, tumors & fractures.
In cases where physical examination reveals no signs of any serious condition, imaging tests like x-rays or MRI are also most unlikely to help diagnosis. Imaging tests are usually considered when signs & symptoms develop following an injury or when damage to nerve is suspected, or when medical history of the patient suggests conditions like infection, tumor or bone disease which can affect spine.
Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease
In order to relieve pain patients can apply heat or ice, in accordance to whichever feels better, on affected areas & use NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like naproxen or ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol). However, doctors may also prescribe strong medications when required. Patients developing health problems like spinal stenosis, herniated discs or osteoarthritis may need other treatments as well. These generally include physical therapy & exercises for stretching & strengthening the back. Surgery may also be recommended in some cases. Normally, surgery involves removal of the damaged disc. In quite a few cases bone is permanently joined (spinal fusion) in order to protect the spinal cord. Moreover, in some rare cases of degenerative disc disease an artificial disc is also utilized to replace the disc which is removed.
Self-Care for Degenerative Disc Disease
Alongside following instructions given by doctors, getting proper amounts of physical activity & strengthening muscles which support the spine, degenerative disc disease patients can manage their condition in additional ways. These generally include making lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, consuming a nutritious diet & addressing both emotional & physical conditions which can influence the musculoskeletal system. Self care generally encompasses choices made every day regarding staying healthy & living well.
Affordable Treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease in India
Over the past few decades, India has emerged as the leading healthcare tourism destination in the world providing a wide spectrum of low cost medical procedure, including orthopedic surgeries for people from all around the world. There are a number of factors which are associated with this success story. First & foremost is the fact that India features a large pool of specialist doctors & surgeons who have over the years delivered successful outcomes which are at par with the best in the world. Moreover, many of these expert doctors have initially trained & experienced for decades in advanced western countries before turning back to practice in their homeland. They are therefore well aware of the emerging trends & confidently incorporate & handle latest technologies while updating from time to time. Along with this, India has an extensive network of multispecialty hospitals spanning across the length & breadth of the entire subcontinent. Most of these hospitals are either nationally or internationally accredited & committed to maintain standardized norms in line with their certifications. Equipped with latest technologies which support advanced procedures, these healthcare institutions are in fact the backbone of the Indian healthcare industry. Another comforting factor for the international patient is that the skilled nurses & profession staff managing these institutions are English speaking. Foreign patients seeking surgery in India can therefore look forward to a speedy recovery in a familiar environment following surgical interventions.
Avail Degenerative Disc Disease Treatments with Orthopaedic Surgery India
Orthopaedic Surgery India is a one-stop specialty healthcare tourism company flourishing under the flagship Travcure Medical Tourism banner. Associated with the best accredited multispecialty hospital facilities in the country, we are well placed to pass on the entire spectrum of benefits to the patient seeking medical procedures with us. Our range of seamless services which begin with the first conversation with the patient when he/she relates the medical problem, quickly moves on to identifying the best doctor & the most ideal hospital facility for treatment. Other essential services offered by Orthopaedic Surgery India includes assisting the patient & his/her accomplice obtain medical visas, receiving them at airports when they arrive for treatment, providing convenient modes of local travel, comfortable options for stay in budget, luxury hotels or serviced apartments near treatment facilities, scheduling appointments with doctors & surgeons for treatments, follow-up evaluation checks to enable speedy recovery & an affectionate farewell when the patient decides to head back home.