Degenerative disc disease diagnosis

Degenerative disc disease is often damage to a disc in the spine as a result of the natural degeneration process of the spine.

While this condition sometimes does not result in symptoms, symptoms may appear if the damaged disc pinches a nearby nerve root. These symptoms can cause severe and chronic pain. Usually as this pain becomes intolerable and not respondent to any at-home treatment, a patient will seek a medical professional to diagnose the condition and make treatment recommendations.

How the degenerative disc disease diagnosis is made

Because a degenerative spine condition encompasses several spine conditions, like a herniated disc or bulging disc, it is important to have your physician thoroughly check your spine to make an accurate diagnosis. To be completely certain of a degenerative disc disease diagnosis, a physician may use some or all of the following diagnostic tools and methods:

  • History — The physician will ask when the pain and other symptoms started, what they feel like, and what activities or positions make symptoms better or worse.
  • Physical exam — This can include a palpation of the symptomatic areas, as well as range-of-motion tests.
  • Neurological exam — This may include tests of muscle strength and reflexes.
  • X-ray — This is performed mainly to rule out fractures.
  • MRI — Magnetic resonance imaging provides the physician a clear view of the interior of the body, with more detail than an X-ray, showing the extent of disc collapse and cartilage deterioration.
  • CT scan — Computed tomography also is a way to give physicians a more detailed view of the body’s interior.
  • Selective nerve root block (SNRB) and diagnostic dye injections — These are used to find the precise location of nerve compression in the spine.

Once a diagnosis has been made, your physician can help you find a treatment option to help relieve your symptoms, or refer you to a spine care specialist for further assistance.

Treatment options for disc deterioration

Many patients can manage the symptoms associated with a degenerative disc disease through a regimen of conservative, nonsurgical treatment methods. These options may include physical therapy sessions, applying heat and/or ice packs to the neck or back, and taking over-the-counter pain medications.

However, if symptoms continue after several weeks or months of utilizing these resources, surgery may become an option.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer a minimally invasive discectomy procedure that helps relieve pressure on the pinched nerve root by removing a small portion of the damaged disc. In some cases, our surgeons may recommend that you undergo a minimally invasive discectomy and stabilization, which entails the removal of the entire damaged disc and the insertion of an artificial disc in its place. This will help stabilize the spine and release the pinched nerve root.

Our minimally invasive procedures are performed through a small incision that does not affect the surrounding muscles and ligaments, unlike traditional open back surgery that cuts through the muscles. The minimally invasive techniques used during our procedures make Laser Spine Institute a safer, effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.

We are the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, and someone from our team can review your MRI or CT scan to determine if you are a candidate.