How Discs Degenerate by Kenneth K. Hansraj, M.D.

Degenerative Disc Disease
With wear and tear one can get an annular tear (i.e.) a tear of the annulus that contains the disc)

With further wear and tear one can get multiple annular tears i.e. tears of the annulus that contains the disc)

With further wear and tear one can get INFLAMED multiple annular tears i.e. inflammatory factors flowing in the annulus tears causing pain.

Annular Tear with Disc Herniation
Here is an example of disc leaking through the annular tears

Herniated Disc
A herniated disc occurs when there is frank extrusion of the nucleus of the disc.
When the nerve is mechanically compressed this causes sciatica in the legs and radiculopathy in the arms.

Neuroforaminal = Nerve Channel Stenosis
With further wear and tear and time, blockages calcify forming neuroforaminal stenosis or a blockage of the nerve root.
In the legs this manifest as sciatic pain, weakness or numbness. In the arm this is called radiculopathy and manifests as arm pain, weakness or numbness.

Central Stenosis = Spinal Canal Stenosis
With further wear and tear and time, blockages calcify forming central channel stenosis or a blockage of the spinal cord.

Spinal cord blockage may manifest as walking and balance issues. Typically in the legs this manifest as sciatic pain, weakness or numbness. In the arm this is called radiculopathy and manifests as arm pain, weakness or numbness.

Dr. Ken Hansraj Chief of Spine Surgery New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine
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