Degenerative disc disease
Degenerative disc disease occurs when spinal discs degenerate, or wear down. The discs of the spine cushion the interlocking vertebrae and act as shock absorbers for the back, allowing it to bend, flex and twist. They break down over time as a natural part of the aging process. Spinal discs are composed of two layers – a tough, firm outer layer and a soft, jelly-like core. Small tears in the outer layer may cause the soft material in the center to leak out, causing a disc to bulge or rupture. This is a leading cause of back pain, primarily in the lower back and the neck. However, not everyone who has degenerative disc disease experiences pain.
Surgery may be considered when patients do not respond to conservative treatment and are severely limited in performing activities of daily life. Spinal fusion can reduce pain by stopping the motion at a painful segment of the spine. The disc is removed from between two vertebrae, then the vertebrae are fused together. This procedure is performed through a single incision in the back.