Neurological Spine Disorders

Degenerative Spine Disease

What causes spine degeneration?

Spine Degeneration

As we age, our spine ages also. The discs between the vertebrae in the spine lose their fluid and their ability to provide cushioning, which makes them more prone to injury.

There are many factors that contribute to how each individual experiences degeneration in the spine. These factors can include mechanical, traumatic, nutritional, biochemical and genetic influences. Mechanical factors that contribute to disc degeneration include extreme or excessive bending, lifting and twisting. Other factors can include age, occupation, cigarette smoking and gender. Men are more likely to develop spine degeneration.

What are the symptoms of spine degeneration?

Symptoms of degenerative spinal disorders include back pain, arm or leg pain, movement in the spine and spinal deformities. Others symptoms, such as weakness, spasticity, clumsiness, changes in sensations and bowel, bladder or sexual dysfunction may also occur.

Bones or vertebrae can also develop bone spurs due to previous injury or damage. These spurs can push on nerve roots or the spinal cord, causing symptoms and sometimes damage.

Which individuals experience spine degeneration symptoms?

Spinal degeneration occurs in all individuals, but not all individuals have symptoms. Additionally, there is a poor correlation with the severity of a personís spine-related symptoms and finding severe degeneration signs in a MRI or CT scan. It is not uncommon to find individuals who have the same degree of degenerative disease with varying degrees of pain or no pain. Some factors that have been associated with different levels of symptoms are social and psychological factors.

How does spinal degeneration progress?

Over time, the fluid in the cushioning disc between the vertebra decrease, which affects the ability of the disc to function normally. Fissures can develop in the annulus, or outer layer of the disc, making it more susceptible to tears. Vertebral endplate thinning can occur, which affects the blood supply to the disc. These factors can also lead the facet joints on the side of the vertebra to experience an increased workload, which can contribute to degeneration as well.

As degeneration occurs, minor trauma or unusual activity can produce back pain. This can produce muscle pain and spasms, tears in the outer ring of the disc, or annulus, and further degeneration of the nucleus or inner cushioned part of the disc. This can progress to laxity, and instability, as well as entrapment on nerve roots as they exit the vertebra.

Additionally, bone spurs or osteophytes develop in and around the facet joint and discs. The ligaments can thicken and cause narrowing of the spinal canal and compression on the spinal cord. This can cause central spinal stenosis or nerve root entrapment.

Movement, or spondylolithesis, may occur, which can cause instability and movement in the spinal column. This may produce pain or weakness, particularly in an arm or leg.

Bones can also lose their density and develop osteopenia or osteoporosis. They can be more likely to fracture or break with trauma. Lifestyle habits such as smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise or exercising too much can also affect bone quality, making your spine more at risk of injury.

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