Cervical degenerative disc disease results in pain in the neck. It can also lead to radiating arm pain. The condition develops when one or more discs that act as a shock absorber in the cervical spine undergoes degeneration.
Degeneration of the cervical spine is a normal aging process. Our spinal discs undergo wear and tear during movement. The symptoms of the wear and tear are not noticeable at the beginning. However, as we grow older, the symptoms become noticeable due to increased wear and tear.
Our body has six gel-like cervical discs. There is one disc located between the cervical spine of the vertebrae. The disc prevents rubbing of the vertebral bones with the movement of the neck. It absorbs the sock that prevents damage to the spinal disc.
Every disc consists of a strong outer layer. This outer layer is made of annulus fibrosus, which is woven cartilage strands. Inside the strands is a soft interior that is filled with nucleus pulposus, which provides shock absorption property.
The discs are about 85 percent water in children. The disc begins to lose water over time as a normal part of the aging process. The water content falls to 70 percent by the age of 70. But in some persons, the disc loses water content much more rapidly.
Due to the loss of water content, the disc provides less cushioning. As a result, the disc becomes more prone to cracks. Since there is no direct blood supply, disc damages cannot be repaired. Instead of blood supply, the disc gets nutrients through diffusion with the vertebrae via the cartilaginous endplates. So, any crack that develops on the disc will make the disc weaker and has the potential to break.
Cervical degenerative disc disease is diagnosed when the person experiences pain due to the damaged disc. Normally, people in their 50s and 60s experience pain due to spinal degeneration. However, in some cases, younger people may also experience pain because of deformation of the spine. The genetic component predisposes some people to increased wear and tear of the spinal disc.
In addition, the injury may also result in early degenerative changes.
Every person develops cervical degenerative disc disease. Studies have shown that around 90 percent of individuals above the age of 50 have the degenerative disc. However, some people won’t experience any symptoms despite the fact that the MRI scan shows degeneration of the spine.
When degenerative changes occur in the cervical spine, it can lead to pain in the neck area. The degeneration occurs at levels C5 to C6.
The pain in case of cervical degenerative disc disease can be chronic or temporary. In some cases, the pain is intermittent and comes and go on its own.
Although everyone develops cervical degenerative disc disease, some factors make early-onset likely. These include smoking, obesity, and genetics. Also, injury to the spine area can accelerate the process of cervical disc degeneration.