Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a relatively common age-related problem, occurring in about 60% of people over age 40. Although DDD can affect any part of your spine, it’s especially common in your cervical spine (neck), where extra flexibility can lead to more wear and tear on the discs.
Located between each pair of spine bones (vertebrae), discs act like spongy shock absorbers to reduce impact on the spine while also promoting flexibility. Discs are composed of a tough outer membrane and a gel-like interior composed of fluids and proteins.
Disc degeneration happens when wear-and-tear and age-related changes cause the disc to lose some of its fluid and resiliency. Discs become compressed while the space between vertebrae decreases, reducing flexibility and increasing painful friction.
Unlike most other parts of your body, your discs have a limited blood supply, which makes healing difficult. Years of wear and tear contribute to disc degeneration, and by the time you’re 60, there’s a good chance you’ll have some degree of this common problem.
Degenerative disc disease doesn’t always cause symptoms, especially in its early stages. As the condition progresses, you can begin to experience symptoms that can eventually interfere with many of your daily activities.
Degenerative cervical disc disease is associated with a dull aching in your neck that recurs or just doesn’t go away. Painful symptoms can vary in severity over time, and they often become worse with extended periods of activity.
Inflammation and loss of fluid in your cervical discs make it hard to perform many activities. Simple tasks, like turning your head, can be painful, and you may not be able to turn your head as far as you once could.
Loss of disc space increases the risk of nerve compression in your neck, too. Nerves exit your cervical spine in spaces between each pair of vertebrae, and when degenerative disc disease causes that space to narrow, those nerves become “pinched.” Compression in these nerves can lead to pain, numbness, and weakness in your arms and hands, along with pain in your shoulders and upper back.
In addition to nerve pain in your arms, disc compression can lead to an increase in headaches. These headaches are often referred to as cervicogenic, meaning they originate in your cervical spine.
Disc degeneration in your neck can also interfere with your sleep habits. You may have trouble finding a comfortable sleep position, or pain may wake you in the middle of the night. Daytime drowsiness can make it harder to cope with painful symptoms, too.
Without treatment, disc degeneration symptoms tend to worsen, eventually leading to serious disability and increased pain and stiffness. Our team offers an array of treatment options designed specifically for disc degeneration in the neck, relieving symptoms while slowing the progression of the disease.
If you have neck pain that’s taking a toll on your life and well-being, request an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Metro Spine PC in Oxon Hill and Clinton, Maryland, or Washington, DC, today.