Cervical degenerative disc disease is a condition that can compress the spinal cord and nerves in the neck. Intervertebral discs are shock-absorbing pads located between vertebrae, the small bones that make up your spine. Aging can cause the discs to lose fluid, collapse, and sometimes rupture. And as the disc deteriorates, it affects the structure of the vertebrae. The structural changes can put pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves, resulting in pain and loss of function.
Cervical degenerative disc disease is not technically a disease, but rather a description of the degenerative process that discs located in the cervical spine go through. Essentially all people who live long enough will develop degenerated discs. While nearly everyone eventually gets cervical degenerative disc disease with age, there are some factors that can make it more likely to develop sooner and/or become symptomatic. These risk factors could include:
- Genetics - Some studies of twins indicate genetics play a bigger role than lifestyle in determining when cervical degenerative disc disease develops and if it becomes painful.
- Obesity - Weight has been linked to risk for developing degenerative disc disease.
- Smoking - This habit can hinder nutrients from reaching the discs and cause them to lose hydration more quickly.