Signs of degenerative disc disease you must not ignore

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) often causes symptoms that are disruptive to your comfort and everyday routine, but can still be managed with basic conservative treatments. Although you should see your doctor for treatment if you think DDD may be causing your neck or back pain, there are certain symptoms that require immediate medical attention. These signs can indicate cauda equina syndrome, a rare yet serious complication that can be caused by damaged spinal discs.

What is cauda equina syndrome?

Cauda equina syndrome is named for the bundle of nerves called the cauda equina that branch out from the spinal cord starting in the lumbar (lower) spine. These nerves carry sensory and movement signals between the brain and the lower extremities. In some cases, conditions like degenerative disc disease can displace spinal anatomy and put pressure on the cauda equina, resulting in severe symptoms such as:

  • A stabbing or shooting pain in the leg
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs
  • Difficulty walking due to pain or weakness
  • Loss of sensation in the inner thighs, buttocks or groin area
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

These signs should not be ignored, especially when they occur suddenly. Cauda equina syndrome can lead to paralysis, loss of sensation and permanent loss of control over bladder and bowel functions. As such, emergency surgery can be required to address the condition. However, it should be noted that cauda equina syndrome is a very rare complication of degenerative disc disease.

Treatment for typical degenerative disc disease symptoms

Most instances of DDD produce only minor symptoms and even moderately disruptive complications can be managed through a personalized plan of conservative nonsurgical treatments. If these steps don’t provide effective relief over weeks or months, surgery can then become an option. At Laser Spine Institute, our surgeons perform minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery to address the symptoms of degenerative disc disease.

To learn about our safer and effective alternatives^ to traditional open neck or back surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We’re happy to offer a no-cost MRI or CT scan review* to help you find out if you may be a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.