Degenerative changes in the spine are those that cause the loss of normal structure and/or function. They are not typically due to a specific injury but rather to age. Repeated strains, sprains, and overuse of the back cause a gradual degeneration of the discs of the spine. Nearly everyone experiences some disc degeneration after age 40.
Since most patients do improve with time and non-operative treatment, surgery is only recommended when degeneration or disc herniation produces persistent back pain or leg pain from nerve compression. A comprehensive back program, combining physical therapy, activity modification, pain management, and appropriate surgery when indicated provides each individual with his or her best chance of recovery.
A herniated disk refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (disks) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to make your spine.
A spinal disk is a little like a jelly donut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disk or a ruptured disk, a herniated disk occurs when some of the softer “jelly” pushes out through a tear in the tougher exterior.
A herniated disk can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness or weakness in an arm or leg. On the other hand, many people experience no symptoms from a herniated disk. Most people who have a herniated disk don’t need surgery to correct the problem.