Chronic lower back pain is frequently caused by lumbar degenerative disc degeneration, which happens when a disc degrades due to either normal wear and tear or a twisting injury. This weakening produces excessive micro-movement at the corresponding spinal level, resulting in the inflammation from the exposed proteins inside the disc and local irritation, which contribute to the discomfort. Because of the name “degenerative,” some individuals wrongly believe that the condition will worsen with age; however, while disc degeneration will most likely progress, pain symptoms normally improve over time. The disc loses inflammatory proteins as it degenerates and becomes more stable, reducing pain. Although many persons over 60 may have deteriorated discs, it is unusual for them to have pain due to this condition. However, as the disc stiffens, the re-stabilization process might take several years.
The typical person with degenerative disc disease is in their thirties or forties and healthy and active.
Common lumbar degenerative disc disease symptoms include:
In addition to pain in your lower back, leg pain, numbness, and tingling may occur. Other structures in the back can transfer pain through the buttocks and legs even when there is no pressure on the nerve root (a “pinched nerve”). Nerves can become sensitized to inflammation from proteins within the disc space, resulting in numbness/tingling. In most cases, the pain does not extend below the knee. These feelings, while concerning and irritating, rarely signal that there is ongoing nerve root injury. Any weakness in the leg muscles, on the other hand, is an indication of nerve root injury.
An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan is the best way to find out if you have disc degeneration. However, not all degenerative discs cause pain, so simply finding the disease on the scan does not always indicate its presence. The above symptoms, along with the results of a clinical exam and an MRI scan, indicate that this ailment is causing your discomfort. Getting a discogram at a pain clinic may also be recommended. If you’re experiencing chronic lower back pain, schedule an appointment with the Pain & Spine Institute in Chicago.