Nerve compression in the back and neck is a common side-effect of degenerative disc disease. Over time, the spongy discs positioned between each vertebra in the spine degenerate. With disc degeneration, there is an increased risk of disc herniation, thinning, or bulging. . Disc thinning reduces the spacing between vertebrae. The intervertebral nerve passageway narrows and may impede the spinal nerve as it traverses this area. Pain results from compression. Degenerative disc disease may ultimately cause radiating pain or other symptoms. Degenerative disc disease is most common in the lumbar spine but can occur at any level of the spine.
The specific types of degenerative disc pain vary from patient to patient, depending on the pathology of the problem. Degenerative discs can be asymptomatic if the affected discs are not compressing nerves, but if they are, the degeneration may be responsible for local pain and radiating pain (including sciatica), as well as numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and cramping. Correctly identifying the source of the pain is integral to managing the treatment of symptoms. Typically, a physician performs a physical examination and medical background, and then confirms the presence of degenerative disc disease with an MRI or CT scan.
Treatment of degenerative disc pain typically begins with a conservative course of action, including:
- Physical therapy or stretching exercises
- The application of heat and/or ice
- Pain medication
- Epidural steroid injections
If a patient has not sufficiently responded to this treatment plan or the symptoms have become debilitating, a physician may suggest a surgical treatment. If this is the case, the patient has several choices. Traditionally, degenerative disc symptoms have been surgically treated with an open back procedure, most commonly, spinal fusion. These surgeries, however, are massively intrusive, painful, and require a lengthy convalescent period.
One alternative to traditional open back surgery is minimally invasive endoscopic spine surgery. At Laser Spine Institute, our award-winning staff of surgeons address degenerative disc pain with one of several minimally invasive procedures. Unlike traditional surgery, our procedures are done on an outpatient basis. They are less expensive, involve less risk and require a much shorter convalescent period than tradition open back procedures. To learn more about endoscopic spine surgery and for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, contact Laser Spine Institute today.