Degenerative Conditions That May Cause Arthritis or Back Pain
Most back pain cases are caused by either a straining of the structures that support the back or due to the wear and tear of many of these same structures. The structures that support the back include the vertebral bones that house the spinal cord, spinal ligaments and tendons, discs of the back, back muscles, and abdominal muscles. Some of these structures have a great capacity for healing, and will heal over time if they are not strained or overloaded again. These structures that have a greater capacity for regeneration are more highly vascularized than other structures with a poor blood supply. Some of the back structures, such as the intervertebral discs, are not as richly supplied with blood vessels, and recover slower than other back structures, such as the back muscles. Let's review a list of some of the most common degenerative conditions that may cause arthritis of back pain.
Ruptured disc: The intervertebral discs of the back are malleable disc shaped joint structures that separate the vertebral bones from the top of the cervical spine to the top of the sacrum. These discs have a gelatinous interior composed of glycoproteins, water, and other materials that function to cushion the spine as we take the upright position and put weight on our back. This portion of the disc is called the nucleus pulposus. The outer portion of the disc is dense and tough enough to maintain the same basic shape of the structure and to hold in the material in its center. In some cases, though, the outer wall of these discs may become worn out due to injury or the degenerative effects of time. If the wall of the disc becomes weak enough to be punctures, the condition is known as a ruptured disc, herniated disc, or prolapsed disc. This condition is also sometimes referred to as a slipped disc, though the disc does not actually become pulled out of its position in the spine.
Discogenic Back Pain: Often, patients experience back pain indirectly as a result of disc conditions such as ruptured discs. Examples of this include conditions where the disc ruptures and part of the disc protrudes into the spinal nerves. This contact may result in enough pressure and compression of the nerve to cause the symptom of pain, as well as other related neurological symptoms, including numbness, burning, and weakness along the path of that nerve.
In other cases, though, we may experience pain directly due to the degeneration of the intervertebral disc. Until recently, doctors and researchers thought that the discs themselves weren't supplied with nerves, and that we would rarely experience pain directly as a result of disc disease. Today, there is a general consensus among doctors that the discs themselves have a nerve supply, and we may experience back pain when anatomical changes occur to them. This condition is labeled discogenic back pain, or lumbar disc pain.
What causes discogenic back pain? Are the conditions that cause this condition inevitable, or are there things that we can do to extend the healthy life of our discs? Some of these questions will be answered here.
The exact cause of discogenic back pain is not fully understood, although posture, occupational demands, and Body Mass Index, among other factors, may affect the health of your discs. Regardless of how well you take care of yourself, disc degeneration is part of the normal aging process. The thickness of the outer rings of the discs diminishes over time. And the volume of material in the nucleus of the disc diminishes over time as well. Everyone's discs become worn out as well inch towards later adulthood and middle age. In that case, why do some of us experience discogenic back pain while others feel fine? The exact reasons why some people experience pain and others no symptoms at all is not well understood.
Degenerative disc conditions may heal over time, or become progressively worse. It's interesting, though, that for many people the severity of a person's symptoms decrease over time even as the degeneration of the disc continues. Many patients who experience discogenic back pain become frightened that pain will only continue to get worse over time. Fortunately, that is not true in the majority of cases.
How is lumbar disc pain diagnosed? In a majority of cases, it is pain related to the lumbar discs that are the most likely to cause the patient symptoms. Diagnosis of this condition is more complicated that herniated discs, where the patient symptoms may be traced directly to the compression of one of the spinal nerves. Medical imaging studies will be excellent in showing good detain of the discs as well as the structures around the discs. But remember that our discs become aged regardless of whether or not we experience discogenic related back pain. There is a procedure, known as a discogram that allows doctors the ability to see the inside of the disc. This diagnostic procedure may enable doctors to find where the source of the patient's pain is.