Neck Degenerative Disc Disease
Neck degenerative disc disease refers to a condition in which the discs between the vertebrae in the neck undergo wear and tear, leading to a range of symptoms that can affect an individual’s quality of life.
The intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers, allowing for smooth movement of the neck. With degenerative disc disease, the discs become thin and lose their elasticity, reducing their ability to absorb shock and causing pressure on the nerves in the neck. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including pain and stiffness.
Causes of Neck Degenerative Disc Disease
The primary cause of neck degenerative disc disease (DDD) is the natural aging process, which leads to the loss of water content in the intervertebral discs that cushion the cervical vertebrae. Other factors that can contribute to or accelerate the progression of neck DDD include:
Trauma or injury to the cervical spine: Any injury or trauma to the cervical spine can cause damage to the intervertebral discs and accelerate their degeneration.
Poor posture and body mechanics: Poor posture, especially when sitting for long periods, can cause the neck to bend forward, which can lead to additional pressure on the discs and accelerate their wear and tear.
Smoking and other unhealthy lifestyle habits: Smoking can impair the body’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the discs, which can cause them to degenerate more quickly. Other unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet, can also contribute to the development of neck DDD.
Genetics: Some people may be more predisposed to developing neck DDD due to their genetic makeup.
Repetitive motions and strenuous activity: Repetitive motions that involve bending, twisting, or lifting heavy objects can place additional stress on the cervical spine, leading to increased wear and tear on the discs over time.
While some of these risk factors cannot be prevented, making healthy lifestyle choices, maintaining good posture, and engaging in regular exercise can help slow down the progression of neck DDD and reduce the risk of developing the condition.
Signs and Symptoms of Neck Degenerative Disc Disease
The signs and symptoms of neck degenerative disc disease (DDD) can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the location of the affected discs. Some common signs and symptoms include:
- Neck pain: The most common symptom of neck DDD is chronic neck pain that may be dull, aching, or sharp. The pain may be localized to one area or may radiate to the shoulders, arms, and hands.
- Stiffness: People with neck DDD may experience stiffness in the neck, which can make it difficult to turn their head or perform everyday activities.
- Numbness and tingling: As the degenerated discs put pressure on the nerves in the neck, people with neck DDD may experience numbness, tingling, or a pins-and-needles sensation in the shoulders, arms, and hands.
- Weakness: Severe cases of neck DDD can lead to muscle weakness in the arms, hands, and fingers, which can make it difficult to grip objects or perform fine motor tasks.
- Headaches: Neck DDD can cause tension headaches, which may be accompanied by neck pain and stiffness.
If left untreated, neck DDD can lead to other complications, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and osteoarthritis, which can cause additional symptoms and further impair mobility and quality of life. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these signs and symptoms.
Treatments for Neck Degenerative Disc Disease
There are several treatment options available for neck DDD, including physiotherapy, medication, and surgery. The goal of treatment is to relieve pain, improve function, and prevent further degeneration. Some of the most common treatments include:
Physiotherapy: Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles in the neck and shoulders, improve range of motion, and relieve pain through various exercises, manual therapy techniques, and modalities such as heat and ice.
Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can help alleviate pain and inflammation. In more severe cases, prescription medications may be necessary.
Corticosteroid injections: Injections of corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the damaged disc and fuse the adjacent vertebrae together to stabilize the spine.
In addition to these treatments, lifestyle changes such as maintaining good posture, quitting smoking, and engaging in regular exercise can also help manage the symptoms of neck DDD and prevent further degeneration.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about neck degenerative disc disease please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Mayo Clinic. (2021). Degenerative disc disease.
Spine-Health. (2021). Cervical degenerative disc disease.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2021). Cervical degenerative disc disease.