Sunday, January 15, 2006

disc degeneration of the spine

The discs of the spine are layers of fibrocartilage between the vertebra consisting of a pulpy center enclosed by a fibrous capsule. The discs act as a cushion between the vertebrae. With the aging process, the pulposus nucleus becomes brown and compressed. Splits or tears in the fibrous capsule can result causing degenerative changes, especially in the lumbar area.
Men are affected more often than women, indicating a correlation with heavy manual work. Other factors leading to disc degeneration are postural disorders, kyphoscoliosis (humplike curvature of the spine often associated with a heart disorder), and ochronosis (deposits of brown-black color in connective tissue and cartilage).
The majority of patients with degenerative disease of the spine are symptom free. When pain or symptoms occur, conservative treatment should be started. Bed rest and the use of analgesics to relieve discomfort are the first line of treatment. Traction, steroid injections, and surgery are only rarely used. Heat therapy and exercise can also be beneficial.
See also BACKACHE.
Brocklehurst, J. C. Textbook of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. New York: Churchhill Livingstone, 1985.

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