Degenerative Disc Disease (Arthritis of the Spine)

Degenerative Disc Disease, which is often referred to as Arthritis of the Spine or Osteoarthritis, is a common diagnosis that many of our patients have been given by their family physician or another specialist that they have seen in consultation. Here’s everything you always wanted to know about this extremely common condition.

The degeneration of the disc that lies between every two vertebrae in the spine occurs as a result of a ‘drying out’ over a period of time. There are a number of factors that may speed up this process:

  • Aging
  • Lack of use
  • Poor diet
  • Excess of smoking
  • Injuries

This process of degeneration brings the surfaces of the vertebrae closer together and eventually results in a gradual wearing of the bone. The body will usually begin to form bony growths on the end margins of the vertebrae in an attempt to strengthen the region which can then put pressure on the nerves themselves. These growths are often referred to as ‘spurs’ or osteophytes, and medically are evidence of what is commonly referred to as Arthritis.

Degeneration of the disc occurs over time in 3 phases:

Phase I: Dysfunctional
In the first phase of the degeneration process we see a tearing around the outer surfaces of the disc cartilage material. The normal height of the disc has now been compromised as it begins to shrink. The disc has lost some of its effectiveness in providing flexibility and cushioning to the spine.

Phase II: Unstable

In the second phase of degeneration, the joint experiences a progressive loss of strength. Further tearing and loss of disc height and cartilage degeneration occurs.
Phase III: Stabilization

Even further loss of disc height occurs, the surfaces of the vertebrae above and below the disc now start to show moderate to severe damage, the disc has become thin and fibrotic, and we now see the formation of arthritic osteophytes (spurs).

Over time pain and symptoms worsen in the absence of proper treatment.

Spinal decompression system gently creates a negative pressure during decompression that can actually help the disc to receive nutrients and rehydrate and promote healing of degenerative discs.

Call today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Grace at 503-684-9698