Degenerative disc disease occurs when the inter-vertebral discs breakdown. Elderly with degenerative disc disease experience a lot of back pain as this disease tends to put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves of the spine. Degenerative disc disease is age related and as a person ages, the discs in the spine start drying out and shrinking.
There different types of treatment available for the elderly with degenerative disc disease but each treatment method has its own limitations and a doctor is the best person to decide which treatment is best suited for a person.
In order to understand degenerative disc disease, it makes sense to find try to understand how the spine works. Our spine is made of bones that are known as vertebrae and in between these bones, there are discs that filled with gel-like substance to help absorb the shock and to prevent the vertebrae from rubbing against each other. The gel-like substance in the disc is made up of 80 percent water and as a person ages, the disc starts losing the water and it gradually loses its ability to absorb shock.
Degenerative disc disease is also known as spondylosis. As a person ages, the blood supply to the discs reduce and as a result when the discs get injured, they do not have the ability to repair themselves.
Elderly with degenerative disc disease can experience many other related problems due to this disorder. Some of the problems are as follows:
- Sometimes, the gel-like substance leaks out of the disc due to minor tears in the wall of the disc. The gel has inflammatory proteins which then inflame the surround nerves and cause pain. However, with age, the proteins dry up and the person experiences less pain.
- As the discs lose water, the distance between two consecutive vertebrae reduces and this would explain why elderly people get shorter with age.
- With the absence of discs in between the vertebrae, they tend to rub against each other causing the growth of bone spurs.
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