As you age, the soft disks between your vertebrae begin to dry out and shrink. This narrows the space between the vertebrae, which makes the spine less stable and decreases its flexibility. This can cause pain, weakness or numbness. A degenerative disk does not always cause symptoms, and varies widely in nature and severity.
Osteoarthritis causes cartilage — the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint — to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, beginning with the lining of joints.
- Genetic factors and the body’s immune system may cause degenerative disk disease.
- Nongenetic factors that contribute to the risk of degenerative disk disease include aging, smoking, obesity, chronic inflammation, and driving for long periods of time (for example, as a long-haul trucker or taxi driver).
- Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
- Problems with walking, bladder, and bowel control
- Impaired movement, pain, and nerve damage.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Examples include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Stronger NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation and may increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. NSAIDs are also available as creams or gels, which can be rubbed on joints.
Physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen the right muscles to help the back heal and reduce the frequency of painful flare-ups.
- Steroid Injections
- Discectomy. This procedure removes the injured disk.
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