Degenerative disc disease — what causes it and how is it treated?

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a condition caused by natural age-related changes to the discs that cushion the vertebrae in the spinal column. DDD can result in the discs losing height and developing small tears in the outer layer. This can contribute to related conditions like bulging and herniated discs.

By understanding what causes degenerative disc disease, you can make an informed decision about the type of treatment you want to pursue to find pain relief and overall spine health. If you have any questions while you are researching degenerative disc disease, please contact Laser Spine Institute for more information.

Causes of degenerative disc disease

The spine is composed of a stack of bone segments, called vertebrae, which are linked by joints and cushioned by rubbery discs. These parts allow for movement and absorb the pressure placed on the spine by the upper body. As the body ages, the discs begin to lose water and protein content, making them less elastic and able to withstand the pressure being placed on them on an everyday basis.

Typically, a disc in the lumbar (lower) spine will feel enormous pressure from the compression of the spine. This is because the lumbar spine in particular holds so much of the body’s weight. As the disc is compressed between two vertebrae, it may begin to flatten and expand outward. DDD is not necessarily painful by itself, but if disc material constricts nerve pathways in the spine and causes compression of spinal nerve, symptoms like pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness may result.

Nonsurgical treatments available for degenerative disc disease

Many patients are able to relieve the symptoms of degenerative disc disease through the use of conservative treatments. Common options for this condition include:

  • Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Losing weight, quitting smoking and other lifestyle changes
  • Hot/cold therapy
  • Epidural steroid injections

If nonsurgical treatments are unable to provide relief after weeks or months, your doctor may recommend neck or back surgery to relieve neural compression and, if necessary, restore stability to the spine.
.
h2. Surgical treatments available for degenerative disc disease

If you have exhausted conservative treatment options and are recommended for surgery to relieve degenerative disc disease, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, offering our patients less risk of complication and a shorter recovery period.^ Since 2005, we have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from neck or back pain while enjoying a streamlined experience at our state-of-the-art outpatient centers.

To learn more and find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to our caring and dedicated team for a no-cost MRI review today.*