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Degenerative Disc Disease

As we age, the water and protein content of the body’s cartilage changes. This change results in weaker, more fragile and thin cartilage. Because both the discs and the joints that stack the vertebrae (facet joints) are partly composed of cartilage, these areas are subject to wear and tear over time (degenerative changes). The gradual deterioration of the disc between the vertebrae is referred to as degenerative disc disease.Degeneration of the disc is medically referred to as spondylosis. Spondylosis can be noted on x-ray tests or MRI scanning of the spine as a narrowing of the normal “disc space” between the adjacent vertebrae.

Degeneration of the disc tissue makes the disc more susceptible to herniation. Degeneration of the disc can cause local pain in the affected area. Any level of the spine can be affected by disc degeneration. When disc degeneration affects the spine of the neck, it is referred to as cervical disc disease. When the mid-back is affected, the condition is referred to as thoracic disc disease. Disc degeneration that affects the lumbar spine is referred to as lumbago. Lumbago causes pain localized to the low back and is common in older persons.

Note that the space denoted by “A” is much smaller than the others.