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Degenerative Spine & Disc Diseases

  • What are degenerative spine and disc diseases?

    Degenerative spine conditions

    Degenerative spine and disc diseases involve gradual wear and tear to the discs, joints and bones of the spine that typically occurs in older people. These changes may eventually place pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in a variety of symptoms.

    Degenerative spinal changes may include:

    • Bony spurring (osteophytes)
    • Decreased disc height (also known as degenerative disc disease, as the discs deteriorate over time and become less effective in absorbing impact)
    • Loss of joint cartilage
    • Thickening of bone
  • Degenerative spine conditions are more common in people with:

    • A history of lower back pain or injury to the spine
    • Lifestyles involving large amounts of lifting, bending, twisting or sitting
  • Minor degeneration may cause few or no symptoms. As the condition progresses, the following may occur:

    • General lower back stiffness
    • Loss of spinal movement
    • Lower back pain

    With severe degeneration involving spinal cord or nerve compression, the following may occur:

    • Pain
    • 'Pins and needles' feeling in the upper limb or lower limb
    • Weakness or numbness in the lower back, buttocks, groin, legs or feet

    Symptoms may worsen during activities that continuously straighten the spine or put weight on the spine like lifting, prolonged sitting and standing or walking. Symptoms usually ease during activities that take weight off it (lying down) and changing posture.

  • Physiotherapy treatment for patients with spinal degeneration is important to help with pain relief and to improve flexibility and strength. Treatment may include:

    • A back brace or back taping
    • Activity adjustments advice
    • Change in lifestyle and better ergonomics
    • Dry needling (a type of acupuncture)
    • Electrotherapy (ultrasound)
    • Exercises to improve flexibility, strength and core stability
    • Hydrotherapy (exercises in water)
    • Ice or heat treatment
    • Medications for pain relief, anti-inflammatory agents, muscle relaxants
    • Minimally invasive and open surgery for spinal decompression of nerves and stabilisation of the spine
    • Mobilisation (gentle stretches to restore movement)
    • Pilates
    • Soft tissue massage
    • Spinal injections and radiofrequency ablation of painful areas
    • Traction (physiotherapist applies force to spine to relieve pressure)
    • Walking aids

    Consult an orthopaedic specialist to learn more treatment and management options for your spine condition.

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  • Degenerative spine and disc diseases can lead to osteoarthritis in the back. In this situation, the discs that provide cushioning between the vertebrae have deteriorated, leading to stiffness and pain.

    While it may seem that rest will relieve the pain, lack of mobility may cause the pain to worsen, decrease muscle tone and reduce flexibility. This, in turn, increases the risk for blood clots in the legs and even depression.

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    There are 19 SpecialistsView All