Degenerative disc disease and arthritis are both common products of the natural aging process and are often the root cause of neck and back pain. With age, spinal anatomy undergoes changes. The soft but tough intervertebral discs that act as shock absorbers in the spine lose protein and water content, making them weaker and thinner. The vertebral joints that give spine flexibility gradually deteriorate, causing inflammation and bone spurs. Deterioration is ubiquitous and largely unavoidable. The resultant discomfort is usually manageable regardless of the location on the spine.
Degenerative disc disease is inherently asymptomatic. Patients experience significant discomfort only in the event that the degenerated disc – which has herniated, ruptured, or thinned – applies pressure or pinches the neighboring nerve structure, or if tiny bits of a thinning disc can break off and irritate nerve tissue. The compression of these nerves is what causes a patient discomfort and requires treatment.
Arthritis of the spine typically accompanies degenerative disc disease, and refers to the inflammation, pain, and swelling of joints in the spinal structure (called facet joints). This arthritis leads to the breakdown of the cartilage between the vertebral facet joints which can lead to bone spurs, spinal stenosis, pain, and stiffness.
Common symptoms of degenerative disc disease and arthritis overlap, including:
- Neck and back pain
- Radiating pain (radiculopathy)
- Muscle weakness, stiffness or soreness
- Loss of mobility and flexibility
- Tingling or numbness in the extremities
Typically, these conditions only require conservative pain management, consisting of physical therapy, hot or cold packs, and pain medication. Occasionally, however, the symptoms of spine degeneration can be extreme, warranting surgical intervention. If this is the case, a number of minimally invasive, endoscopic spine procedures are available to help the patient find meaningful pain relief.
At Laser Spine Institute, our award-winning team of spinal surgeons use state-of-the-art, techniques to address degenerative disc disorders and spinal arthritis allowing our patients to obtain a more fully functional life. To learn more about endoscopic spine surgery and to obtain a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, contact Laser Spine Institute today.