Is degenerative disc disease and arthritis the same?

Some people may wonder if degenerative disc disease and arthritis are the same condition. While these two conditions have some similar causes, they are separate conditions.

Degenerative disc disease describes the natural deterioration of the spinal discs as the spine wears down with age. This can lead to collapsed discs, herniated discs and bulging discs, depending on the severity of the spinal deterioration.

Arthritis of the spine – particularly osteoarthritis of the spine – is also caused by the natural degeneration of the spine. However, spinal osteoarthritis does not directly affect the spinal discs. Osteoarthritis of the spine occurs when the cartilage lining on the facet joints — the joints that connect the vertebrae — begins to erode, causing joint inflammation, pain and stiffness.

One thing that degenerative disc disease and arthritis of the spine do have in common are conservative treatment options. Many patients who have been diagnosed with either of these conditions are able to find sufficient relief through conservative (nonsurgical) methods of treatment.

Arthritis of the spine treatment

Degenerative disc disease and arthritis of the spine treatment often begin conservatively, aiming to effectively reduce the symptoms without surgical intervention. Common methods of conservative treatment for these types of degenerative spine conditions include:

  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Weight loss, when necessary
  • Behavior modification
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Stretches
  • Corticosteroid injections

Conservative treatments for degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis of the spine and other degenerative spine conditions often take several weeks or months before relief is experienced. If you do not find relief from these treatments after this time, surgery may become necessary.

Surgery for arthritis of the spine

Minimally invasive spine surgery is often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open neck or back surgery when treating degenerative conditions like spinal osteoarthritis.

At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive spine surgery has helped more than 60,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain, including patients suffering from degenerative conditions like arthritis of the spine.

While many degenerative spine conditions can be treated with a minimally invasive decompression surgery, which aims to remove pressure on a compressed nerve in the spine, the symptoms of arthritis of the spine can be treated through a minimally invasive facet thermal ablation surgery. Often performed in conjunction with a decompression procedure as the main procedure to treat spinal arthritis, facet thermal ablation is used to relieve painful nerves in the facet joint, through the use of a laser.

To find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We can provide you with a no-cost MRI review* to help you find the treatment options available to you.