Cervical degenerative disc disease is a common constion seen in our Scottsdale office. It frequently manifests itself through pain radiating from either the neck or arm. The condition occurs when one or multiple discs that function as a cushion in the cervical spine begins to weaken over time as the individual ages. These discs are made up of soft tissue, which play an integral role in the range of motions of the neck and arm. The rate of wear and tear of these discs can vary from person to person, and there is evidence suggesting genetics to be one of the predisposing risk factors that accelerate the wear and tear rate.
How it Happens
Naturally, there are six discs that slip between each of the spine’s columns. These gel-like figures act as shock-absorbers for the human body by preventing the collision of spinal bones against each other while the neck changes in position.
Discs are made up of rugged but versatile layers of woven cartilage fibers, which are medically known as “annulus fibrosus”. Encased inside the annulus fibrosus is a softer gel substance, called “nucleus pulposus”, which is protein-dense and provides the shock-absorbing attribute of the disc.
In his/her childhood years, an individual’s cervical discs will constitute around 85 percent water. As the individual progresses into his/her teenage and adolescence years, the water concentration begins to decrease and the columns lose hydration. By the time the person reaches 70 years old, some anticipate water content loss of up to 15 percent. Keep in mind, however, that some predisposing factors can cause a much faster rate of water content loss.
A Process, Rather Than a Disease
Cervical degenerative disc disease, despite the name, is not actually a physical ailment. A more accurate categorization of it is the process of degeneration that discs situated in the cervical spine undergo. Basically, all humans who’ve live after a certain age will experience the effects of degenerating discs.
In fact, reports indicate that a huge number of surveyed adults will appear asymptomatic of degenerative disc disease, despite the fact that a dense population of these people will still exhibit symptoms of degenerative discs when given an MRI scan.
Risk Factors Accelerating the Process
There are three main risk factors that make you prone to degenerative disc disease at a much earlier age, namely Genetics, Obesity, and Smoking. These factors will not only determine how much faster the rate of disc degeneration is experienced, but whether or not there is pain during the process.