Degenerative disc disease and arthritis

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

Over time, the strong components of the spine begin to weaken and deteriorate due to added body weight and repetitive motions. The vertebrae that make up the structure and support of the spine begin to become compressed under the extra body weight, which causes them to push down on the discs and joints that cushion and hinge the vertebrae, respectively.

As the vertebrae continue to press down on the discs in between them, the inner jelly of the disc begins to press against the tough 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 is inherently asymptomatic, meaning it does not naturally result in 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

Arthritis of the spine (osteoarthritis) typically accompanies degenerative disc disease, and refers to the inflammation, pain and swelling of joints near the vertebrae (called facet joints). Arthritis leads to the breakdown of the cartilage between the facet joints, which can 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 (radiculopathy)
  • Sciatica
  • Muscle weakness, stiffness or soreness
  • Loss of mobility and flexibility
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities
  • And more

Typically, these conditions only require conservative pain management, consisting of physical therapy, hot or cold packs, and pain medication. Occasionally, however, the symptoms of spine degeneration can be extreme, warranting surgical intervention. If this is the case, a number of minimally invasive spine procedures are available to help the patient find effective pain relief.

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

Laser Spine Institute offers several minimally invasive surgeries to treat degenerative disc disease and arthritis.

Some patients may only require a minimally invasive decompression surgery, which removes a small portion of the disc or bone spur that is impacting a nerve root and causing pain. Laser surgery is also used in this procedure to treat arthritis in the joints and other areas of the spine to help prevent further deterioration of the spine.

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

Both minimally invasive procedures are performed through a small incision that does not disturb the surround muscles or ligaments, allowing our patients to have an effective surgery with less risk and a shorter recovery time^ than patients who opt for traditional open back surgery or fusion.

If you are suffering from symptoms caused by degenerative disc disease or arthritis of the spine, take the next step to find pain relief and request an MRI review from one of the spine experts at Laser Spine Institute. Contact us for more information today.