A degenerative spine diagnosis isn’t uncommon, but it should by no means be taken lightly. The spine is made up of a complex series of muscles, vertebrae, ligaments and intervertebral discs – components that can deteriorate over time. The discs are particularly important because they are designed to act as shock absorbers for the movements made by other parts of the spine. In addition to allowing for spinal flexibility, the discs function as ligaments that hold the bony vertebrae together.
As you grow older, the years of tension and stress that your spine has to endure take a toll on the intervertebral discs, which ultimately leads to degenerative spine disorders. Age-related changes also cause the discs to become drier and thinner, making them more prone to damage. Consequently, the discs can no longer serve their role as shock absorbers. Because the spine is a narrow column filled with nerve tissue, any change in the structural integrity or placement of the discs threatens to impinge upon adjacent spinal nerves, which is often what causes painful degenerative spine symptoms.
Two common types of degenerative spine disease are:
- Osteoarthritis – also referred to as degenerative spinal arthritis, this is the breakdown of cartilage located on the spinal facet joints. Osteoarthritis is a common cause of bone spurs, or osteophytes, in the spine (extra growths of smooth bone that your body produces as a reaction to excess friction in arthritic facet joints).
- Degenerative disc disease – the breakdown of the intervertebral discs. Conditions like a herniated disc (when the disc breaks open and inner disc material extrudes into the spinal canal), bulging disc (when the disc pushes beyond its normal perimeters) and thinning discs (the discs become dry, brittle and compressed) are common when a patient is diagnosed with this degenerative spine condition.
Following a degenerative spine diagnosis, the condition can often be successfully treated with a conservative rehabilitation routine, which might include physical therapy, hot and cold compresses or over-the-counter pain medication. If the symptoms worsen, your physician may prescribe stronger medication or anti-inflammatory steroid injections. Some patients also find relief in the form of alternative therapies such as restorative yoga, acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation.
Conservative and alternative degenerative spine treatment options do not work for every patient, but the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute may be able to help those patients find relief. We offer minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that are performed using state-of-the-art technology. Our team of medical experts has helped tens of thousands of people from around the world find relief from neck and back pain, with the added benefit of a greatly expedited recovery process compared to traditional open spine surgery. Contact us today to talk about your degenerative spine diagnosis and to receive a review of your MRI or CT scan.