Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is not really a disease but a term used to describe the normal changes in your spinal discs as you age. Spinal discs are soft, compressible discs that separate the interlocking bones (vertebrae) that make up the spine. The discs act as shock absorbers for the spine, allowing it to flex, bend, and twist. Degenerative disc disease can take place throughout the spine, but it most often occurs in the discs in the lower back (lumbar region) and the neck (cervical region).
Degenerative spine conditions involve the gradual loss of normal structure and function of the spine over time. They are usually caused by aging, but may also be the result of tumors, infections or arthritis. Most patients with degenerative disc disease will have some underlying chronic low back pain or neck pain, with intermittent episodes of more severe pain. The exact cause of these severe episodes of pain is not known, but it has been theorized that it is due to abnormal micromotion in the degenerated disc that spurs an inflammatory reaction. In an attempt to stabilize the spine and decrease the micromotion, the body reacts to the disc pain with muscle spasms. The reactive spasms are what make patients feel like their back has "gone out.”
Treatment for degenerative disc disease varies considerably depending on the specifics of each case. Some patients benefit from conservative therapy with rest and physical therapy and some cases call for spine surgery.