The gradual deterioration of the intervertebral disc is called degenerative disc disease (DDD). With age, the composition of the cartilage tissue of the body changes, as a result of which the cartilage becomes thinner and more fragile. These changes cause wear and tear on the discs and joints that connect the vertebrae (also known as facet joints ). Disc degeneration in osteochondrosis is also called spondylosis.
Young people with healthy spines can flex, bend, and twist their back without difficulty. The spinal discs act as shock absorbers, allowing the back to resist forces and remain flexible. However, as we age, discs become stiffer and less flexible.
Disc degeneration is a normal consequence of aging. Everyone 60 years and older suffers from disc degeneration to some degree. However, not everyone experiences the pain associated with such disc degeneration. In more severe cases of degeneration, the spinal discs can collapse and the vertebrae rub against each other. This phenomenon is called osteoarthritis .
People suffering from back pain, which can only be attributed to disc degeneration, are diagnosed with osteochondrosis.
Unlike muscles and bones, discs circulate very poorly. Without adequate blood flow, these discs cannot repair themselves. In other words, trauma to the discs results in irreversible damage.
Spondylosis can be seen on spinal X-rays or MRIs as a narrowing of the normal disc space between adjacent vertebrae. X-ray or MRI is what confirms the diagnosis of osteochondrosis.
Any level of the spine can be affected. Disc degeneration can cause localized pain in the affected area. When osteochondrosis affects the cervical spine, it is more specifically called cervical disc disease. When the middle back is affected, the condition is known as thoracic disc disease. Degenerative disc disease that affects the lumbar spine is called lumbar disc disease.
Degenerative disc disease can be associated with aging. In particular , with age, the spinal discs dry out and cannot absorb shock.
In addition to aging, osteochondrosis can also be caused by trauma. For example, injuries sustained during sports can break discs.
Exercise is the key to treating osteochondrosis. People with this condition need to exercise to strengthen the muscles that support the spine and vertebrae .
Also, while the discs don't get a lot of blood, exercise increases blood flow to the back muscles and joints, which nourishes the back and removes waste.
Osteochondrosis pain is usually treated with heat, rest, rehabilitation exercises, and medications to relieve pain, muscle spasms, and inflammation. Other helpful interventions to treat osteochondrosis include heat therapy, cold therapy, physical therapy , medications, and surgery .
Conservative therapies are tried first and surgical treatment options considered if spondylosis has resulted in compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots to relieve pressure .