Disc desiccation is a common factor that contributes to the onset of the larger issue known as degenerative disc disease. Desiccation refers to the dehydration of your spinal discs, which makes them prone to faster degeneration. Below, we take a closer look at why this condition develops, how you can prevent it and how to treat dehydrated spinal discs.
In between the vertebrae in your spine are small spinal discs that help you move in different directions while also acting as a natural shock absorber. Keeping these discs healthy is imperative for your overall spine health, but even the best cared for spines are subject to some natural degeneration. This degeneration occurs slowly as years of stress are put upon the area, but this degeneration speeds up if certain factors are present. Smokers and overweight individuals tend to experience more rapid degeneration, as are individuals who suffer from disc desiccation.
Dehydration of your spinal discs can occur slowly over time or as a result of trauma to the area. When your spinal discs lose their fluid, it is replaced with a tough fibrocartilage that inherently limits some of the disc’s natural range of motion. This can lead to stiffness, weakness, numbness and even pain at the source of the desiccation.
If you’re starting to experience any of the symptoms listed above, consider setting up an appointment with a spine specialist like Dr. Chang. He’ll begin by conducting a physical exam to see which movements you can perform and what actions cause symptoms. Your doctor may also order imaging tests like an X-ray or MRI to get a better look at your vertebrae and discs. Imaging tests will reveal which discs are thinner than expected or if their shape is inconsistent.
If you’re diagnosed with disc desiccation, the goal of treatment is to preserve the fluid you have left and work to mitigate any future fluid loss. Some treatment options that are often used in conjunction with one another include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Posture awareness and postural changes
- Diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
- Practicing proper lifting techniques
- Physical therapy to strengthen core muscles and help take pressure off your spine
- Corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation in the area
In rare cases, the desiccation is so severe that a fusion operation is recommended to help limit movement at the source of the disc height loss. Patients rarely need this level of medical intervention, especially when the condition is caught in its early stages.
Disc desiccation may be unavoidable for some patients, but you can help prevent it from becoming a problem earlier in life by practicing the habits listed above. For more information, or for assistance with your spinal disc issue, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.