Intervertebral disc wear is a serious problem because it cannot be reversed – or can it? State-of-the-art treatment methods with the cultivation of the body’s own cells promise both recovery and also a clear improvement in the function of damaged intervertebral discs! Painful muscle tensions caused by an ailing spine and poor back posture can also be brought under control. Here you can find out all you need to know regarding the causes, symptoms and also prevention of excessive wear of the intervertebral discs as well as the treatment possibilities.
Soon after the body has finished growing, at around 20 years of age, the intervertebral discs begin to degenerate: They lose water content and elasticity and also become more susceptible to initial signs of wear. It is generally known that the body tends to be slightly smaller in the evening than in the morning: This daily “shrinking” is associated with the gradual water loss of the intervertebral discs through the weight of our own body when in an upright posture. However, this is completely normal and usually causes no symptoms.
What causes intervertebral disc wear?
If the load-induced changes of the intervertebral discs extend beyond a certain level, nerves can also be affected, resulting in back pain: In contrast to the daily “shrinking”, in cases of excessive wear the intervertebral discs continually lose height and thereby also part of their shock-absorbing function (chondrosis). As a result, the spine is somewhat compressed with greater pressure exerted on the vertebral joints or the adjacent base and cover plates of the vertebral bodies, which can also be affected (osteochondrosis).
Our body tries to counteract this by allowing fine veins to grow into the affected intervertebral disc to better supply it with nutrients. This becomes problematic because even the smallest pain fibres can sprout into the disc tissue and the previously pain-insensitive intervertebral disc thus becomes a pain-sensitive intervertebral disc – small “pain factories”, known medically as “intradiscal pain” are then created. As a result, even simply turning over in bed can cause pain, which then develops in the intervertebral discs themselves.
Furthermore, symptoms of osteochondrosis can also be caused by sports accidents or by lifting heavy loads incorrectly, i.e. from the back instead of the legs. Calcifications or ossifications in the musculature are specific forms of this.
Herniated disc with osteochondrosis
What are the symptoms of intervertebral disc wear?
Intervertebral disc wear not only leads to pain in the spine but also, owing to poor and relieving back posture, to muscle tension that runs the risk of becoming chronic without treatment. The cervical spine is particularly susceptible to extremely stubborn and long-lasting neck pain owing to disc wear and poor back posture that is often linked to dizziness and headaches. But symptoms can also appear in the thoracic and lumbar spine as well as the muscles that border onto this area, depending on which part of the spinal column is affected by the increased wear.
Pain occurs above all during movement, whether it is a simple change of posture when sitting down or a position change when sleeping. The vicious circle is completed if the sleep problems that result from this lead to further muscle tension. It is normally easy to feel this muscle tension. Sufferers can also feel the stiff muscle fibres themselves, particularly when they move.
How is intervertebral disc wear treated?
It is important to know the cause and combat it in a targeted way in order to alleviate the pain and, ideally, eliminate it. In our four medical care centres, we have all necessary examination procedures at our disposal. Thanks to our interdisciplinary team of doctors we specialise in developing a tailored treatment concept for you, to enable you to have a life that is as free from pain as possible without movement limitations.
Conservative measures for intervertebral disc wear:
- Muscle relaxants
- Weight reduction if overweight
- Heat treatment
- Injection of medicaments in the affected intervertebral disc
The first step in treating worn-out intervertebral discs is a suitable pain therapy, meaning that the muscle tensions can be released. Most pain-relieving medication affects the nerve pathways and stops or suppresses the transfer of pain signals to the brain. The actual cause is not eliminated, but the patient does not feel pain any more and, therefore, no longer adopts unfavourable relieving postures which lead to further muscle tension. The body can finally relax a little.
Fast-acting and reliable medicaments that can be administered in different ways are particularly helpful for people with severe or chronic pain. For acute and very severe pain we can inject the pain-relieving drug directly into the affected area. Muscle relaxants can be helpful if painful muscle tension is the primary symptom.
If the conservative measures are not sufficient for a pain-free life, a minimally-invasive procedure or, in the most extreme case, surgery can bring about improvement. There are various treatment possibilities available which are used according to the severity of the intervertebral disc wear:
- Minimally-invasive discography and laser treatment
- Nucleus reinforcement with hydrogel sticks
- Implantation of an intervertebral disc prosthesis
- ADCT treatment: In autologous disc cell transplantation, we take cells from the disc tissue that has been removed; using ADCT these cells are transplanted back into the affected disc where they can form new disc tissue. This enables the disc to heal again and the disc function to be improved again.
How to prevent intervertebral disc wear
A healthy lifestyle is the most important element in preventing increased intervertebral disc wear. This includes a balanced diet and regular exercise. Avoid lifting or carrying heavy loads if possible. If you have to lift loads on a regular basis for occupational reasons, you should always try to protect your back, i.e. by bending the knees and with a straight spine.