Degenerative Disc Disease

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The vertebral column (backbone) is made up of 33 vertebrae. These vertebrae are then grouped into divisions called the cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back), and lumbar (lower back). A fibrous disc (intervertebral disc) connects each pair of the vertebrae. Healthy spines have discs that cushion the vertebrae allowing for normal flexibility and movement of the spine.
 
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is the weakening of one or more of these intervertebral discs. Unfortunately, the condition develops as a natural part of the aging process. These discs between the bones of the spine are made up of cartilage, fibrous tissue, and water. With age, the discs weaken, flatten, bulge, or break down. Sometimes there may be a genetic component in some individuals who suffer from DDD, but the true cause can be a combination of things, but usually it’s simple “wear and tear” or the result of an injury.
 
Degenerative Disc Disease in the lower back, or lumbar spine, occurs when a disc is compromised and causes pain. The disc itself does not have a blood supply, so if an injury occurs it is unable to repair itself the way other tissues in the body can. DDD is so common that an estimated 30% of individuals ages 30-50 years old have some degree of disc space degeneration. After a person reaches the age of 60, some level of disc degeneration is considered normal and nothing to be alarmed about.
 
The severity of the condition will determine the best approach for treatment before considering surgery.