July 27

What Are the Stages of Degenerative Disc Disease?

Did you know that around 35% of people over the age of 70 suffer from degenerative disc disease? This disease can be very severe and can negatively affect a person’s life in multiple ways. But what are the stages of degenerative disc disease?

Is there anything you can do to treat this problem once it starts so you can keep it from getting worse? Keep reading and learn more about the levels of degenerative disc disease below.

The Dysfunction Stage

The first of the four spinal degeneration stages is the dysfunction stage. What is degenerative disc disease exactly, you might ask? It has to do with the degradation of the discs between your spine which support and protect your spine.

Once these discs start to degrade, the spine will start to take damage from everyday activities such as walking or sitting upright. This disease can become very painful and can even keep some people from living normal, healthy lives in severe cases. Keep in mind that with age, there is a certain amount of spine degeneration that is normal.

There is also an abnormal amount of spinal degeneration which explains degenerative disc disease. Many people who are in the dysfunction stage of this disease don’t even know that they have degenerative disc disease. This is because the first stage usually does not involve any pain yet.

Instead of pain, this pain is characterized by changes in the physical structure of the spine. In particular, the curve of the spine will change to a certain extent. The spine has a natural curve, especially the lumbar (lower) spine which curves inwards.

This curve is important because it helps support the weight of your entire body. If the curve starts to shift out of alignment, the spine will become less and less effective at supporting the weight of your body. As you can imagine, this can throw your entire body out of alignment.

What You Need to Know

More than that, if the curve of your spine starts to change, some of your spinal discs might start to bear more weight than usual. This can put a strain on the discs and even damage them over time which, in turn, will damage the rest of your spine. Most people won’t be able to tell that they are in the dysfunction stage of degenerative disc disease unless they go to see degenerative disc disease doctors in Maryland.

While pain does not characterize this stage of the disease, the dysfunction stage leaves the affected person at a higher risk for the development of a slipped (herniated) disc which can be very painful. This is why it is important for older adults to go to the doctor regularly. By diagnosing degenerative disc disease early on, it will be easier to treat it and take better care of your spinal health before it gets any worse.

A woman suffering from Degenerative Disc Disease holding her back

The Dehydration Stage

The dehydration stage is the second stage of degenerative disc disease. Most people start to feel pain in their spine during this stage, although the pain tends to start out mild. People in this stage may even experience back pain only on occasion.

At this point, the affected person’s spine will continue to shift and change in terms of curvature. The curve of the spine will worsen and as it worsens, the pain in the spine will become worse. People in the dehydration stage may also notice a lack of energy that is unusual for them.

A person may be able to notice differences in the shape of their spine at this point. However, the changes in the spine’s structure will still be relatively slight. This stage is called the dehydration stage because it involves the spinal discs losing water and becoming thinner.

Usually, spinal discs are gel-like and filled with moisture. This makes them very supportive and very good at supporting the weight of the spine. As you can imagine, as the spinal discs start to lose their moisture, they will no longer have the ability to absorb shocks in the spine as you move your body.

The Details

Instead, the bones in your spine will rub very closely to each other and will impact against each other without much protection. This kind of a shock to the spine, especially over a long period of time, will start to damage the bones and the bones will show signs of wear and tear.

In particular, bone spurs may grow as a result. Bone spurs are small boney growths that can appear on the bones of the spine as a result of irritation. These spurs can be very painful and can make it difficult for a person to move.

Fortunately, there are several options for degenerative disc disease treatment, Maryland such as epidural steroid injections and radiofrequency ablation. These treatments can help soothe your symptoms, especially pain.

A doctor holding a Xray image of back with Degenerative Disc Disease

The Stabilization Stage

As your degenerative disc disease gets worse, you will eventually enter the stabilization stage. The name for this stage comes from the fact that the spine will attempt to stabilize itself despite its changing structure. This, however, does not solve the problem of the disease and this third stage is when the pain and deformation of the spine start to get much worse.

The spinal discs wither away and no longer offer much support to the spine at all. As a result, the bones of the spine will grind against each other without any protection. As mentioned before, this will result in bone spurs but it will also inflame the spine, causing severe pain.

The deformity of the spine will be much more visible at this point as well. The mobility of the spine will also start to become limited. For example, you may no longer be able to stand up straight or turn your body in a certain direction.

What to Know

This stage is also associated with a loss of energy and consistent pain. The pain during this stage can vary in terms of its intensity, but it is almost always constant and a daily problem. As the disease progresses, the pain will only continue to worsen.

Some people may experience pain so severe that it is almost impossible for them to walk or perform daily activities. This is not to mention that nerves in the spine may start to be compressed due to the common development of spinal stenosis.

When this happens, you may start to experience neuropathy in addition to the pain. Neuropathy includes a tingling or numb sensation in an area of the body. However, this neuropathy may also feel like a burning or chilling sensation.

It is very important to get treatment at this stage. If the disease progresses past this stage, it becomes much more difficult to treat.

A human spine model

The Collapsing Stage

This stage involves the irreversible degeneration of the spinal discs. At this point, the only way to fix your spine problems is to go through invasive surgery. The collapsing stage involves a great loss of mobility.

This is because the bones in the spine start to fuse together under the weight of your spinal column. This happens due to the fact that the spinal discs are no longer present to separate the bones throughout the spine. As the bones start to fuse together, you would experience reduced mobility throughout many areas of your spine.

You may not be able to turn your body at all and you may not be able to straighten your posture at all. This is not to mention that your back would be in constant pain. During this stage, the spinal pain will also start to worsen due to the constant inflammation and strain that the bones are experiencing.

Most people who get to the collapsing stage are not able to live normal lives. Instead, they may be confined to a wheelchair or be bedbound due to their limited mobility and severe pain. Because the collapsing stage is so severe, it is essential that you get your degenerative disc disease treated far beforehand.

That way, you can avoid the consequences of this stage of the disease. You can also avoid more intensive treatments such as surgery.


What Are the Stages of Degenerative Disc Disease?

What are the stages of degenerative disc disease, you might ask? There are for main stages: the dysfunction stage, the dehydration stage, the stabilization stage, and the collapsing stage. Most people don’t even realize that they’re in the dysfunction stage because there is not usually any pain involved, although the spine will start to deform at this stage.

It is important to get this disease treated as soon as possible. To learn more about treatment, schedule an appointment here.


Tags

Chronic Pain Conditions, Pain Management


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