Degenerative disc disease FAQ — frequently asked questions

If you’ve been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, you may feel unsure of what this diagnosis means for you. Starting off with some basic information about your diagnosis can be helpful. In this FAQ, Laser Spine Institute answers some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive from our patients regarding degenerative disc disease.

Q. What is degenerative disc disease?

A. Degenerative disc disease is a natural deterioration of the spinal discs that occurs with age. As people get older, their spinal disc lose water and protein content, causing them to shrink and become less elastic. This ongoing deterioration is known as degenerative disc disease or DDD.

Q. What causes degenerative disc disease?

A. For most patients, degenerative disc disease is simply the result of getting older. Often, it starts with small tears in a disc’s outer rim, which makes the rim less capable of containing the gelatinous central core. This can then make the outer layer sag, bulge or collapse. When this process is underway, genetics, trauma and excess body weight can contribute to someone’s discs degenerating more quickly than what would usually be expected.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. Degenerative disc disease doesn’t always cause symptoms. The condition is typically only symptomatic if the degenerated disc starts to press up against a nerve root or the spinal cord. If that occurs, patients may experience neck or back pain, pain that radiates into their arms or legs or numbness and tingling in their extremities.

Q. What are some treatment options?

A. Most degenerative disc disease treatments work to address the patient’s symptoms, since the underlying forces are not reversible. Doctors may recommend medications to relieve pain and inflammation, exercises to strengthen the spine and physical therapy to help increase range of motion and improve posture. Patients may also obtain relief from alternative treatments, such as chiropractic care or acupuncture. It is also important to make any necessary lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or improving nutrition, if they are recommended by your doctor.

Q. Will I need surgery?

A. Many patients are able to find a significant amount of relief from the above methods and do not require surgical intervention. However, some people may need to consider spine surgery for long-term relief if conservative treatments have been exhausted without bringing the necessary relief.

Patients considering their surgical options should contact the team at Laser Spine Institute to learn more about the benefits of our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our board-certified surgeons+ are able to treat degenerative disc disease and other spine conditions on an outpatient basis with a less than 1-inch incision.

If you’d like to find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, ask for your free MRI review today.*