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The structure of your spine is a combination of bones stacked one above the other, which are known as vertebrae (the spine has 33 vertebrae). These vertebrae are piled up together, and a spongy disc that functions like a shock absorber is developed between them. These discs deteriorate over time due to a common disorder called disc degeneration or degenerative disc disease.

Disc desiccation is one of the main symptoms of degenerative disc disease, which develops when your discs become dehydrated. These vertebral discs are filled with fluid so that they remain strong and flexible, and this dehydration process is a prevalent aspect of the condition. With increasing age, the discs undergo a gradual reduction in their fluid content, resulting in a reduced capacity to perform their functions effectively. 

Causes of disc desiccation

As discussed above, ageing is the primary cause of disc desiccation. However, it is also observed in younger people.

Some other causes that may lead to disc desiccation include:

  • Trauma that happens in car accidents falls, or sports injury
  • Gaining or losing too much weight
  • Repetitive movements, like lifting heavy weights, that strain your back
  • Ankylosing spondylitis

Symptoms of disc desiccation

The symptoms associated with disc desiccation vary depending on the specific region of the spine that is affected.

Desiccation that affects the cervical spine can cause neck pain, and if it affects the lumbar disc, it results in lower back pain.

Some other symptoms related to disc desiccation include:

  • Stiffness in the back
  • Weakness 
  • A burning or tingling sensation
  • A numb feeling in the legs or feet
  • Decreased motion
  • A painful movement
  • Sciatica 

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, consider booking an appointment with a spine specialist like Dr. Surya Prakash. He will perform some physical exams so that he can observe the movements you are able to perform effortlessly and the movements that are causing you pain or discomfort. 

He may also suggest undergoing some imaging tests like an X-ray, CT (computed tomography) scan or MRI so that he can have a close look at your vertebrae and discs to find the precise cause. These diagnostic tests can provide insights into discs that become thin or have irregular shapes. These tests are capable of detecting other disc-related problems such as a ruptured or herniated disc, which may be the source of your back pain.

Treatment for disc desiccation

In some cases, treatment may not be necessary if the condition doesn’t cause any significant pain or interfere with your daily activities. They can be managed by maintaining an ideal weight, practising good posture while sitting, standing & sleeping, and avoiding things that commonly trigger your back pain, like lifting heavy objects.

However, if the symptoms of this condition become severe, the following treatment options can help:-

  • Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)  (ibuprofen and naproxen) can help to relieve your back pain. 
  • By targeting the muscles around the affected area, massage therapy helps relieve pain or discomfort.
  • Physical therapy can strengthen the core muscles that support your back. So, consult a physical therapist—recommended by your spine doctor—who can teach you techniques to improve the strength and function of your core back muscles. Additionally, they can assist you in developing methods to prevent engaging in activities or postures that might aggravate your symptoms. 
  • Injections like corticosteroid injections that are directly injected into the affected spinal area may also help reduce inflammation and back pain in some cases.

In some exceptional cases, spine surgeons may suggest undergoing surgery, such as spinal fusion surgery, which involves permanently fusing two vertebral bones. This procedure can stabilize your spine and prevent unnecessary movements that result in back pain. Other alternative options include the possibility of disc replacement or the insertion of an alternative spacer (Interspinous Spacer or intervertebral body spacer) between the vertebrae to address the specific condition.

Is disc desiccation preventable?

Disc desiccation is a natural process of aging, but there are a few tips you can follow to slow down its progression. These include:

  • Include regular exercise into your routine and start doing core-strengthening exercises 
  • Do stretching exercises regularly
  • Maintain an ideal weight so that you can avoid placing added pressure on your spine
  • Quit smoking, as tobacco can increase the progress of disc degeneration
  • Stay hydrated
  • Maintain proper spinal posture

If you are having back pain, consult Dr. Surya Prakash, a renowned spine surgeon in Hyderabad, who can help with a pain management strategy for your particular back problem. Treatment depends on the severity of your condition, which usually involves a combination of procedures—medication, physical therapy, and exercise. He has more than two decades of experience as a spine specialist in Hyderabad. For appointments, call +91 9848024699 and book your slot.

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