Last updated on August 21st, 2018 at 09:30 pm
Are you suffering from persistent back pain or other spine-related symptoms that you can’t quite explain?
You might be suffering from disc desiccation, a condition that while common, can pose plenty of risks and be increasingly encumbering.
Even if after a certain age, it becomes a more and more frequent occurrence for most people, this condition can still be treated and improved on. In this guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know about disc desiccation, from recognizing it to approaching treatment.
What Is Disc Desiccation?
According to the official disc desiccation definition, this is a condition which develops over time (degenerative), and which makes one or more of the discs between the spine’s vertebrae get eroded. This, in turn, leads to the spine becoming more and more desiccated, which means pain, nerve sensitivity, less flexibility and so on.
Although more prevalent in older people rather than the young, disc desiccation is not solely responsible for the loss of height as we age. The couple of centimeters that people lose when aging can sometimes be caused by independent factors, although disc desiccation will certainly accelerate the process.
As for the details, disc desiccation happens like this: due to the weight of the body and the strain on the spine itself, the vertebrae in more tense areas are pressurized closer together. This causes the cartilaginous disc between the two vertebrae to become eroded, thinner and thinner, and more compacted.
This thinning of the cartilage cushion between the vertebrae which are most exposed to damage leads to a range of unpleasant symptoms. The manifestations associated with a desiccated spine will get more intense as the disc collapse advances further. Since it is a degenerative disease, a patient suffering from a desiccated spine can expect it to become more and more of a nuisance, and potentially very dangerous, if left untreated.
What Are the Symptoms of Disc Desiccation?
Since the space between the vertebrae affected becomes reduced, and the disc more compressed, that area of the spine becomes significantly less flexible than normal. This not only causes mobility issues but helps the disc compression advance to the neighboring vertebrae.
The extra pressure on the vertebrae compresses the delicate nerves normally situated in the cartilage (which is now reducing), causing advancing discomfort. The usual symptoms of disc desiccation that you can expect include numbness, a generalized weakness in the spine, tingling sensations and pain. Remember that, as the compression progresses, these symptoms will also become more pronounced.
In extreme cases, if the person suffering from disc desiccation doesn’t get treatment, the cartilage can erode so much as to leave the two vertebrae scraping on each other. To reduce this scraping, the body will then proceed to compress the two vertebrae together, in a process named spinal fusion. This can quickly pose a serious threat to the person’s mobility and health, requiring immediate intervention.
A common symptom for disc desiccation is also neck pain, even if the actual disc compression is occurring somewhere in the lower spine.
The overall balance of the spine is affected in such a way as to transfer some of the pressure on the neck area. So, of you are experiencing neck pain for long spells of time and nothing seems to relieve it, you should schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as you can.
How to Seek Treatment and Improve the Condition
The most common way to treat disc desiccation once it becomes symptomatic is surgery. The most minimally invasive intervention will have the surgeon access the affected area of the spine laterally. This will reduce operatory risks and the expected recovery time, but the method is not suitable for all cases.
For milder cases, where the disc desiccation is just starting out, surgery may still not be necessary. The condition can be treated with chiropractor treatment, massages and physiotherapy.
Still, you should know that these alternate ways of addressing the issue will only slow the progression of the degenerative disease, and you can still expect to need surgery at some point down the line.
If you suspect you may be suffering from disc desiccation, the first step is to go for a check-up and ask your physician for an MRI scan. The MRI is the only sure-fire way to verify the state of your discs, especially while the symptoms are only beginning to become manifest.
It will show the impingement of your nerves, revealing if this is indeed the cause for the symptoms you are experiencing. Regardless of the result, your doctor then will be able to prescribe the best course of action for the near future.