Cervical degenerative disc disease
Many of the spines problems come from the process of degeneration within the intervertebral disc. Like the name implies cervical degenerative disc disease is a condition that involves degeneration of the intervertebral disc in the neck. These intervertebral discs are the shock absorbers of the neck. This process of degenerative disc disease will occur in everyone’s neck to some degree through the aging process, it is a reality of normal aging. For some however this process of normal aging goes beyond what is normal and becomes advanced degeneration.
Our intervertebral discs are the shock absorbers of the spine and allow for stresses (movement energy) to be absorbed. In a healthy disc the centre of the disc (nucleus pulposus) contains lots of water making it spongy. This aids its shock absorption role, just like a cushion. The outer layer of a disc is a harder ligament tissue (annulus) that holds the vertebrae together and gives the disc its ‘toughness’. Overtime, through natural aging, tearing of the annulus will occur. These tears will heal with scar tissue that isn’t as strong as the original tissue. This tearing allows the softer inner nucleus portion of the disc to lose its moisture by escaping, and the disc ultimately becomes less spongy and looses its ability to absorb spinal stresses. Because the disc(s) capacity to absorb load diminishes more tearing in the annulus and this vicious cycle continues. Because the spongy inner part of the disc is no longer absorbing the forces it should be, another structure must now help out with the shock absorption job. Unfortunately it is usually the outer layer of the disc (annulus) or the joints and bones of the spine (vertebrae) that were not designed for this. These structures start to degeneration from the pressure of their new shock absorption roles. Our body does have one strategy to help out, by trying to lay down more bone, in a final attempt to help out. Unfortunately, over time this new one leads to bone spurs and spinal stenosis. This is the lifelong cascade of cervical degenerative disc disease.
Symptoms of cervical degenerative disc disease
The most common symptom of neck degeneration is pain. Neck pain associated with degenerative disc disease can spread out over both sides of the neck or just one. We can get a combination of discogenic pain (pain from the disc) and pain that occurs as the nerves and spinal cord becomes compressed from degenerated bone (neuropathic pain). This will cause sensory problems, muscle weakness and lasting function loss if its not treated early.
Treatment of cervical degenerative disc disease
Conservative management is the title given to anything that really doesn’t involve surgery. This is what we do at Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C). For the treatment of cervical disc degeneration this can be as simple as letting you know and reassuring you, that in most cases degenerative disc disease does do represent a serious problem. Our chiropractors and physiotherapists in Balmain and Dee Why can give you all the information you need to self manage this condition and common causes of neck pain. There is a large focus from our chiropractors and physiotherapists on joint therapies such as mobilisation and McKenzie Method, along with strengthening exercises. Cervical degenerative disc disease is a condition that can be treated and self managed very successfully. Please contact our Balmain or Dee Why Spine Centre if you are struggling with cervical degenerative disc disease.