What is degenerative disc disease in the neck?

Degenerative disc disease in the neck — or cervical degenerative disc disease — is a broad term used to describe damage to a disc in the cervical (neck area) spine, typically due to the natural aging process. As we get older, our spinal discs begin to weaken due to years of wear and tear and increased compression. The discs eventually deteriorate, making them weaker and thinner. Over time, this can lead to a herniated disc, bulging disc or thinning disc, which can then cause symptoms including neck and back pain.

If you are experiencing chronic pain and stiffness in your neck, you should consult with a physician. Your doctor can diagnose the cause of your discomfort and help you find a treatment option that fits your needs and your lifestyle. Fortunately, many cases of degenerative disc disease begin slowly, and the condition can often be identified and addressed before the disc damage becomes severe.

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease in the neck

A degenerated disc does not always cause pain and other symptoms. As with other disc problems, symptoms arise when an abnormal neck or back disc interferes with regular nerve function. When a nerve in the neck becomes pinched or otherwise irritated, a number of symptoms are possible, including:

  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Muscle weakness in the shoulders or arms
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms, hands or fingers
  • Radiating or “traveling” pain (radiculopathy) along the nerves

These symptoms often start mildly and increase in strength over time. If you begin to experience one or more of these symptoms for longer than a week, you should consult a doctor to proactively treat your condition before your symptoms worsen. Many mild degenerative disc cases can be treated through conservative, nonsurgical methods of treatment, such as hot and cold therapy, pain medication and physical therapy. However, as the condition worsens, you may be more likely to be recommended for spine surgery.

Minimally invasive spine surgery as treatment for degenerative disc disease

If you have found several weeks or months of conservative treatment to be unsuccessful in relieving pain caused by cervical degenerative disc disease or lumbar degenerative disc disease, it may be time to think about surgery. If this is the case for you, we encourage you to contact Laser Spine Institute. The minimally invasive spine surgeries we offer are a safer and effective alternative to open neck and back surgery, and we currently hold a 98 percent patient satisfaction^ score. We would be happy to provide a free MRI review* to determine whether you may be a candidate for our procedures.