The condition can be caused by prolonged and irregular pressure on the discs due to wear and tear associated with advancing age, the patient's poor posture and bio-mechanical deformities (such as a short leg). After the age of 60 when even normal spinal discs lose up to 20% of their water content, they become prolapsed (thinner) and are not as elasticated as before, losing some of their ability to act as shock absorbers.
Remnants of the nucleus pulposus known as debris can then adhere to the sides of nerve sleeves causing pain. Degenerative Disc Disease often combines with other conditions such as osteophytosis (bone spurs) or sponyltitus (cracks in the pars intervertebralis). Disc degeneration can affect any of the three major regions of the spine where intervertebral discs are present. E.g., when a damaged disc is present in the cervical spine it can lead to neck pain.
The bio-mechanical derangement in the spinal column and the normal function of the lumbar spine can be restored by mobilising the spinal joints to free them from constrictions and by rectifying any actual or impending herniation.
Any fissures or cracks in the discs will then heal up over three months, but they must be made to heal in their proper place, which is why treatment is essential. Following treatment, the patient is required to undertake regular and specific exercises to strengthen appropriate muscles, as well as physical therapy.
It can safely be said that for the vast majority of spinal conditions surgery is neither necessary nor effective, as it almost always leads to long term complications and suffering for the patient, out of all proportion to the original condition.
The use of spinal fusion procedures, metal rods, screws and plates and the cutting away of parts of the spine, even the heating of discs to cause them to shrink (IDET procedure) represent a rather crude approach to the treatment of spinal problems and is not a method of 'treatment' that we can ever recommend.
The procedures of Orthopaedic Medicine outlined above do not involve operating on a patient, and all treatment is safe and manageable as well as being highly effective.