Degenerative disc disease and arthritis

Degenerative disc disease and arthritis are both common results of the natural aging process and are often the underlying cause of neck and back pain.

Over time, the parts of the spine begin to weaken and deteriorate due to natural changes combined with added body weight and repetitive motions. The vertebrae that make up the structure of the spine begin to become compressed under the extra body weight, which causes them to push down on the discs that cushion the spine. These forces also put extra stress on the joints that link the vertebrae and allow for basic movement.

As the vertebrae continue to press down on the discs in between them, the gelatinous inner material of the disc begins to press against the tougher outer layer, causing tension on the elastic layer. Over time, the elasticity of the outer layer of a disc deteriorates and the constant pressure from the surrounding vertebrae makes the disc flatten and expand. This is called degenerative disc disease. In some severe cases, the outer layer of the disc will break open, leaking inner disc fluid into the spinal canal.

Degenerative disc disease doesn’t necessarily cause symptoms. However, when bits of a thinning disc break off and irritate nerve tissue in the spinal canal, symptoms of pain and discomfort arise and require treatment.

The role of arthritis with degenerative disc disease

Degenerative arthritis of the spine, or spinal osteoarthritis, often accompanies degenerative disc disease because both conditions are age-related conditions caused by the breakdown of connective tissue. Spinal osteoarthritis refers to the inflammation, pain and swelling of joints near the vertebrae, called facet joints. This is related to the breakdown of the cartilage between the facet joints, which can further lead to bone spurs, spinal stenosis, pain and stiffness.

Common symptoms of degenerative disc disease and arthritis overlap, including:

  • Neck and back pain
  • Radiating pain
  • Sciatica
  • Muscle weakness, stiffness or soreness
  • Loss of mobility and flexibility
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities

Often, these conditions only require conservative treatments like physical therapy, hot or cold packs, and pain medication. However in some cases the symptoms of spine degeneration can persist despite exhausting conservative options and surgery can become an option. Patients considering surgery should contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery.

Minimally invasive surgery for degenerative disc disease and arthritis of the spine

Laser Spine Institute provides minimally invasive spine surgery to treat degenerative disc disease and arthritis that can potentially treat patients with one or both of these spine conditions.

Some patients may be recommended a minimally invasive decompression surgery, which removes a small portion of the spinal anatomy that is impacting a nerve root and causing pain. Some procedures involve a technique known as a facet thermal ablation to relieve pain related to facet joint arthritis.

Other patients may be recommended for minimally invasive stabilization surgery, which involves the removal of the entire damaged disc and the insertion of an implant to stabilize the spine and decompress the affected nerve.

All of our minimally invasive procedures are performed through a small incision that involves muscle-sparing techniques, allowing our patients to experience less risk complication and a shorter recovery time^ than patients who opt for traditional open back surgery or fusion.

To help you find out if you may be a potential candidate for one of our procedures, we are pleased to offer a no-cost MRI review.*