The human spine consists of multiple vertebrae which help to carry the body's weight and protect the spinal cord. Intervertebral discs between every vertebra act as cushions that are designed to absorb shock. Each one of us has 24 intervertebral discs in their body. Increasing the stress on an intervertebral disc will have a negative effect on it. The intervertebral disc can start to break down and the outer shell - the annulus - will become weak. When it weakens, degenerative disc disease occurs. The weakening caused by this disease causes the disc to leak water and lose flexibility. The condition may present without symptoms, however, when symptoms of degenerative disc disease occur, they are often painful.
Pain is the main symptom of degenerative disc disease. When the intervertebral disc loses flexibility, the gap between the vertebrae in the spinal column becomes narrower. Increasing the pressure on the spinal column will cause damage to the weak disc. It may start to crack or acquire tiny tears. When that pressure reaches a certain level, the disc becomes herniated. Because the gap between the vertebrae has become smaller, the body will start to form spurs that arise from the surrounding vertebrae. The goal of the spurs is to hinder any movement that might cause more damage. The pressure of the spurs on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves results in pain and discomfort.
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