When we get older, most of us will have some degree of disc degeneration, but not everyone will experience back pain. Some studies suggest that if someone in your family has degenerative disc disease, you might be more likely to develop a painful back condition.

This raises the question, “Is degenerative disc disease hereditary?” Let’s find out.

What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease occurs when the discs between the bones in your spine start to wear down or degenerate. Although it’s called a disease, it’s not a sickness but more like a normal thing that happens as you age.
The discs lose their flexibility and can’t cushion your spine anymore. Conditions like DDD are often called “wear-and-tear” because they’re linked to aging or getting injured.

Does Degenerative Disc Disease Run in Families?

The research found that if someone in your close family has degenerative disc disease, you’re more likely to get it, too. While it’s not certain, this suggests there might be a genetic link to the condition. We don’t know all the genes involved, but scientists have identified some related to collagen, Vitamin D, inflammation, and a molecule called aggrecan, which helps keep cartilage hydrated.

Treatment Options for DDD

When you have a degenerative disc, there are different ways to treat it depending on how bad it is and what symptoms you have. Doctors usually start with treatments that are less likely to cause big changes in your body, and if those don’t work, they might try more intense treatments. Your options include:

  • Exercise and Physical Therapy
    If your pain doesn’t stop you from moving, you can do exercises to strengthen the muscles around your spine. This helps support the affected discs. Walking, swimming, biking, yoga, and pilates can help.
    When you have a degenerative disc, you can also see a physical therapist to learn how to walk and lift things properly. Wearing a back brace might also help relieve pain and make it easier to move around.
  • Medications
    Doctors can give you different medicines to help manage your symptoms and ease the pain. These might include pills like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, muscle relaxants, or stronger medications like steroids. Sometimes, doctors might give steroid shots directly into your spine to help with the pain.
  • Surgery
    If other treatments don’t work well enough, surgery is an option. Some common surgeries include putting in an artificial disc, fusing the bones in your spine together, or doing surgery to take pressure off your nerves.
  • Stem Cell Therapy
    Stem cell therapy is a special treatment where doctors inject stem cells into the damaged disc. These stem cells help the disc heal and grow new tissue.

Key Takeaway

The answer to “Is degenerative disc disease hereditary?” comes out affirmative. However, you can do some things to lower your chances of back problems. If you are already dealing with symptoms, a management specialist can help.

Visit Dr. Raza Jafri at Genesis Pain Clinic. Our physician is double-boarded in Anesthesia and Pain Management by the American Board of Anesthesiology. Call us at (913) 871-9888 to book an appointment.

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