Is medication the best form of degenerative disc disease treatment?

There is no single “best” treatment for degenerative disc disease (DDD). While many people find medications to be helpful for relieving neck or back pain, the most effective approach can vary considerably from one patient to the next. To help ensure that you find the treatment that works best for you, it’s important to work closely with a physician who can provide individualized advice and guidance.

If you decide to use any type of medication — including over-the-counter remedies — for degenerative disc disease treatment, you should take it only under the direction and supervision of your physician. This will help to ensure your safety because some medications can be harmful to people who have certain health conditions. For example, oral steroids can increase blood sugar levels and cause complications for diabetics.

Medications recommended for degenerative disc disease

With that said, medications can be a convenient and effective form of degenerative disc disease treatment that may be suitable for use during particularly painful episodes. Some options include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs make up a class of pain-relieving medications that can reduce the inflammation associated with degenerative disc disease. In addition to aspirin, there are several other types of NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and naproxen (available over the counter) and COX-2 inhibitors (available by prescription).
  • Acetaminophen. This medication works by interfering with the brain’s perception of pain. Widely available without a prescription, acetaminophen is generally safe, has no side effects and can be very helpful during painful flare-ups caused by degenerative disc disease. Unlike NSAIDs, however, acetaminophen cannot reduce inflammation caused by a degenerated disc.
  • Oral steroids. These powerful, nonnarcotic anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to address moderate to severe degenerative disc disease pain. It’s typical to begin with a high dose to kick-start the effects of the medication, then taper down to a lower dose over the course of five or six days. Because chronic steroid use can lead to a number of complications, including insomnia, weight gain and headaches, most physicians recommend using them only for a short period of time (one to two weeks) to address very severe pain.

Surgery can address severe DDD symptoms

For patients who elect surgical degenerative disc disease treatment, the minimally invasive spine surgery performed by the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute is often clinically appropriate and provides many advantages versus open neck or back surgery.^ If you are interested, contact us to request a free MRI review.* Our team can explain your options and help you determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery.