Degenerative disc disease in the lumbar section of the spine is experienced by many people as they age because the discs naturally deteriorate over years of use. These discs are important components of the spine because they cushion the vertebrae during everyday actions, and their construction is uniquely suited to this purpose. They have two main components – a soft gelatinous core contained within a fibro-elastic rim – that can be negatively affected by the normal aging process. The elastic exterior usually maintains the shape of the disc as it is compressed, but small tears can occur over the years, leading to a loss of elasticity and possibly to the containment wall bulging or even herniating.
When degenerative disc disease affects the lumbar spine, it can manifest in a number of ways, including:
- Lower back pain that is localized near the affected disc
- Radiating pain that can affect the hips and legs (also known as sciatica)
- Pain that worsens while sitting, bending, twisting and lifting
Many times, the pain caused by lumbar degenerative disc disease will last for a few days and slowly subside, but if it doesn’t, you can discuss the issue with your physician. You may have to undergo physical examinations as well as a CT scan or MRI in order to confirm your condition, and once you have a diagnosis, you can review possible treatment options. Your physician will likely recommend conservative treatments, including modifying your daily activities, applying heat or ice packs to the affected area or completing physical therapy sessions, which you can learn more about on our degenerative disc disease exercises page.
Through these conservative methods, most people can find relief from their symptoms, but in some cases, surgery is prescribed. In this situation, it’s practical to choose the most effective and least invasive option available. Consider the minimally invasive outpatient procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute, which require shorter recovery times and have a lower risk of infection compared to traditional open spine surgeries.
Contact us today for a review of your MRI or CT scan, and to receive more information about our facilities.