Degenerative disc disease is a condition affecting the intervertebral discs that cushion and connect the stacked vertebrae along the spine. It’s important to understand that this condition actually is not a “disease.” Rather, it is a natural result of wear and tear endured every day by the cartilaginous discs and the adjacent spinal anatomy. As we age, the sponge-like discs begin to lose water content and elasticity. The outer disc wall begins to weaken, and the disc loses its height. This can cause the disc to become herniated or bulge, which in itself is not a major concern. However, if extruded disc material comes into contact with nerve roots or the spinal cord, painful symptoms can arise.
Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease
The symptoms associated with a herniated disc or bulging disc brought on by degenerative disc disease include pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness. These symptoms normally can be managed using conservative treatments, including:
- Rest – a short period only, to allow potential swelling to diminish; a minor amount of controlled movement is recommended to improve joint flexibility and prevent muscle atrophy.
- Anti-inflammatory medicine – helps reduce the swelling.
- Analgesic medication – helps control the pain.
- Exercise – strength and flexibility are important; never begin an exercise regimen before consulting a physician.
- Physical therapy – work with a licensed therapist; ask questions.
- Epidural injections – “nerve blocks” involve a series of injections of pain medication and steroids into the back.
- Alternative methods – these include chiropractic therapy, acupuncture, electric stimulation, and yoga.
Minimally Invasive Alternative
If chronic symptoms associated with degenerative disc disease persist after weeks or months of conservative treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure might help you rediscover your life without back pain. The board-certified surgeons at Laser Spine Institute use safe, effective endoscopic techniques to treat herniated discs and other spinal abnormalities.