Between each set of two adjacent vertebrae in the spine – which extends all the way from the neck to the lower back – is a cushion composed of cartilage called a disc. These discs throughout the spine work together to enable you to bend and move your back, but they do tend to degenerate as a natural part of aging. They become drier and harder, and can develop cracks. This is called degenerative disc disease (DDD).
Some people can develop degenerative disc disease at younger ages due to wear-and-tear on the spine, such as those who do a lot of heavy lifting or who are overweight. Those who are at greater risk may have disc degeneration at a faster rate.
Degenerative disc disease can produce uncomfortable symptoms anywhere in the spine, including in the cervical region – which is in the neck at the very top of the spine. These symptoms can include neck pain that radiates to the shoulder and arm.
How Does Degenerative Disc Disease Cause Neck Pain?
In the cervical spine, there are six jellylike discs in between the vertebrae to prevent them from rubbing against each other as you move your neck. In children, 85% of the vertebral disc material is made up of water – but as we get older, or if we engage in constant harsh use of our back, the discs slowly degrade and become drier. This makes them prone to develop cracks, causing neck pain and back pain.
The dehydrated discs lose their shock-absorbing capability and flexibility, so it can be painful for you to move your neck and back. Incidentally, the dehydrated discs also cause you to lose height, because they’re not as thick so your spine is a bit shorter than before.
There could also be pain from the cracks and tears due to the soft interior jellylike material leaking out of the disc. When it leaks, the disc can irritate or pinch the nearby nerves in the spinal cord.
Dehydrated Cervical Discs and Neck Pain
Patients who have degenerative disc disease in the cervical spine may experience the following symptoms in the neck, shoulders, and arms:
● Stiffness and inflexibility
● Decreased range of motion
● A burning sensation
Orthopedic Doctor in Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol, TN
Here at Watauga Orthopaedics, we have an entire team of medical specialists who can treat spine conditions of all kinds, from neck pain to lumbar pain. Degenerative disc disease may affect the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), or lumbar (lower back) region of the spine, and we have the training and experience needed to effectively treat your condition and provide relief that lasts.
We provide the best spine care in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, and we offer physical therapy and rehabilitation as part of our comprehensive orthopedic services.
To request an appointment with a spine specialist to treat your neck pain, call us today at (423) 282-9011. You can also request an appointment via our convenient online form. We have offices conveniently located in Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol, and we look forward to serving you at the location nearest you!