A degenerative spine can refer to several conditions, most of which are associated with the gradual deterioration of the spinal anatomy that accompanies normal wear and tear over time. The vertebrae, spinal joints, intervertebral discs, ligaments, muscles, and other tissue that make up the spine are particularly vulnerable in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions. This is because the vertebrae within the neck and lower back are involved in a wide range of movement, and because both vertebral regions support a great deal of weight – the head, in the case of the cervical spine; and the upper body, in the case of the lumbar spine.
Degenerative Spine Conditions
Most degenerative spine cases remain asymptomatic unless nearby nerves or the spinal cord become impinged. This impingement, known as nerve compression, can produce symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness. Symptoms vary based on the severity and location of the nerve compression. Conditions that can lead to nerve compression include:
- Degenerative disc disease – loss of water content and elasticity of an intervertebral disc
- Arthritis of the spine – cartilage degeneration within the facet joints, where the vertebrae meet and move; also referred to as osteoarthritis
- Spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal (the passageway for the spinal cord) or the vertebral foramina (the passageways for nerve roots)
- Spondylolisthesis – slippage of one vertebra over another
- Avascular necrosis – death of bone cells due to interrupted blood supply
Treatment for Degenerative Spine Conditions
Symptoms associated with degenerative spine conditions normally can be managed or alleviated through conservative, non-surgical treatments such as pain medication or physical therapy. However, if chronic symptoms persist despite weeks or months of conservative treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure might help you rediscover your life without neck or back pain.