Degenerative Disc Disease
Discs are flexible, rubbery cushions between the vertebral bones of the spine. They act as shock absorbers and allow the spine to twist and bend. These discs can degenerate as part of the aging process or because of injury to the neck. The soft center of the disc (called the nucleus pulposus) can lose its water content which is needed to allow the disc to function as a shock absorber. As these discs lose their height, they can change the natural alignment of the spine, which can lead to Facet Joint Arthritis. Furthermore, they can narrow the canal where the spinal cord and nerves run, leading to Spinal Stenosis and Cervical Radiculopathy.
The disc wall, referred to as the annulus, can tear which can cause pain. These tears can heal and be replaced by scar tissue, which is not as strong as the original disc wall, which can predispose to a Herniated/Bulging Disc.
Conservative treatment options include pain-relieving medications, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, and cervical epidural steroid injections.