With aging, degenerative disc disease occurs in all of us over the age of 50. The intervertebral disc separates two adjacent vertebrae bodies, allowing for normal spinal movement. When the spine degenerates, slippage or instability of a spinal segment (disc and two vertebrae bodies) can occur because of the loss of strength of the aging disc and ligaments. As a result, one vertebrae body may shift forward in relation to the lower vertebrae segment termed spondylolisthesis.
This slippage of one vertebra over another can cause constriction of the spinal canal and compression of the spinal nerves that allows leg motor (muscle) and sensory function.
Symptoms can include back pain especially on bending or standing. Neurologic symptoms of leg pain, numbness and weakness, decreased duration of standing, or limited walking distance are common.
Similar, to the treatment of spinal stenosis, the conservative care can include NSAIDS, stretching, exercise (PT), and spinal injections.
Surgical intervention involves taking pressure off the spinal nerves (Laminectomy) and spinal fusion with instrumentation (screws and rods) and placing bone graft (cadaver and bone growth enhancing proteins such as BMP) to stabilize the two vertebrae.