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Degenerative Disc Disease in New Jersey

Degenerative disc disease is diagnosed when the spinal discs lose height, and the space between vertebrae reduces, thereby placing patients at greater risk for other back conditions. If you have symptoms of degenerative disc disease and live in New Jersey, Performance Rehabilitation offers the diagnostic testing and treatment you need at our offices in Totowa and Lafayette Township.

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

The discs in your spine lose water because of disease and natural aging. The loss of water brings your spinal vertebrae closer together, causing the nerve openings to narrow. When this occurs, the discs cannot absorb the shocks from the movement as much as they used to, especially when you walk, run or jump. Along with normal wear and tear on your bones, improper body movements and poor posture can make the discs weak, resulting in disc degeneration.

Although it has the word “disease” in it, degenerative disc disease is not actually a disease. Rather, the health field uses this term to describe changes in the spinal discs, which are compressible, soft discs that separate the vertebrae in your spine. They function as shock absorbers, allowing your spine to bend, twist and flex. Degenerative disc disease can occur anywhere in your spine, but it happens most often in the lumbar region or cervical region, which are also known as the lower back and neck regions respectively.

The changes that occur in degenerative disc disease may cause back or neck pain as well as:

  • Herniated disc, an abnormal breaking open or bulging of a spinal disc
  • Osteoarthritis, the deterioration of the cartilage that cushions and protects your joints
  • Spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spinal canal, which holds the spinal cord, becomes narrow.

These spinal problems might put pressure on the nerves and spinal cord, causing pain and potentially affecting how the nerves perform.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

Spinal discs naturally break down or degenerate because of aging, which causes disc deterioration in some individuals. You may experience the following age-related changes:

  • Tiny cracks or tears in the annulus, which is an outer layer capsule. The jelly-like substance inside the nucleus, which is the disc, could be ejected through the cracks or tears in the disc capsule. This may make the disc break into fragments, rupture or bulge.
  • Fluid loss in a spinal disc diminishes its ability to function as a shock absorber and makes it less flexible. This also makes the disc slimmer and the distance between it and your vertebrae shorter.

These changes most often happen in individuals who smoke cigarettes and regularly perform labor-intense activities, such as lifting heavy objects. Obese people are also more likely to experience degenerative disc disease symptoms, than those who maintain a healthy weight.

What Symptoms are Associated With Degenerative Disc Disease?

You could have leg and back pain, difficulty walking and functional issues such as numbness and tingling in your buttocks or legs. Back pain that extends to your buttocks and into your upper thighs is the most common symptom of early degenerative disc disease. When medical professionals refer to this condition, they are typically referring to a mixture of spinal problems that begin with disc damage and progress to affecting all parts of your spine. Some issues that are believed to be caused by degenerating discs are bulging discs and discogenic pain.

How is Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosed?

At Performance Rehabilitation, one of our physical therapists will conduct a physical examination that includes postural assessment, movement assessment, and special tests to help identify the most likely cause of your low back pain.

Your physician may order x-rays or an MRI-based upon what she believes is the underlying cause of your back or leg pain.

These tests help to identify:

  • Bone spurs
  • Decline in space between your vertebra
  • Facet hypertrophy or enlargement
  • Facet joint hypertrophy
  • Herniated disc
  • Stenosis
  • Tumors

Left untreated, degenerative disc disease may lead to osteoarthritis, herniated discs and other conditions. If you believe you have degenerative disc disease or another back condition, contact Performance Rehabilitation to schedule a consultation at our Totowa or Lafayette Township offices.