Top 10 Spinal Injuries
Degenerative Disk Disease
Disks are shock absorbers that normally contain water in their central portion. As aging progresses disks tend to lose that water. As a result, disks may lose their normal height. With the central portion of the disk unsupported the wall of the disk can bulge or protrude, much like the side walls of a tire will bulge if the air pressure is insufficient. This aging process of the disks is not necessarily a cause of pain, but it can lead to abnormal stress and strain on the facet joints, the two joints in the posterior arch of each vertebra. If the facet joints also wear out with the disk then the ligaments joining to the vertebra will buckle, typically into the spinal canal. Bony spurs may also form, further compromising the available space for the nerve roots in the spinal canal. The end result can be lower back pain and nerve root compression causing pain that travels down the lower limbs (sciatica).
Non-surgical treatment is typically employed when there are no nerve root symptoms and many times when there are. Strengthening of the spinal muscles and judicious use of arthritis medication are frequently helpful. Injection therapy is used when nerve root symptoms occur. If there is progression of nerve pain despite non-surgical treatment then surgical widening (decompression) of the spinal canal may be necessary to relieve the symptoms. In order to restore the lost disk height and reduce pressure on the nerve roots a fusion in the disk space may be recommended.