Degenerative Disc Disease is a common cause of back pain.
The space between the vertebrae in the spine narrows with age and eventually the spinal disk may bulge out and compress the spinal cord. This is known as a “slipped” or herniated disc.
Degeneration occurs naturally with age and is generally not considered a serious issue unless a disc slips, a nerve is pinched, or it otherwise causes discomfort.
Generally, spinal degeneration is more common along the lower spine. Serious deterioration of the lower spine is called “Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease” whereas damage towards the neck and shoulders is known as “Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease”.
Some degree of degeneration is to be expected with age.
In the early stages, this degeneration manifests itself as feelings of stiffness and inflexibility. 60% of people over the age of 40 show some degree of disc degeneration. In the early stages, the condition is not considered serious and symptoms can usually be relieved with over-the-counter painkillers. If the condition progresses, it may lead to pain or weakness. Decreased grip strength, lack of feeling, and pain are all symptoms of a pinched nerved caused by progressed degeneration of the spinal discs. If you experience these symptoms, you should seek medical attention.
Treatment for more severe degeneration will usually involve painkillers and physical therapy.
In the worst cases, surgery may be required. The usual procedure for correcting disc degeneration is called a discectomy. In a discectomy, the damaged disc is removed and may be replaced by a metal or plastic disc. Sometimes the doctor will use a small piece of the patients own bone instead of an artificial disc. The bone eventually grows into the space the disc once occupied to fuse the vertebrae together. This is known as a spinal fusion.
Because some degree of spinal disc degeneration is an expected part of the aging process, degenerative disc disease doesn’t not often qualify for disability benefits unless it is coupled with another illness or is especially severe.
Also, because pain is largely subjective, it can be difficult to prove to the Social Security Administration. In back pain cases, medical evidence such as x-rays, Cat scans and MRIs are especially important.