Spine degeneration is a process that happens naturally over time as the components of the spine wear down over years of repetitive motions and weight gain.
Typically, spine degeneration is apparent in two main components of the spine: vertebrae and discs. These two areas of the spine, when exposed to years of wear and tear, often develop into degenerative disc diseases or degenerative spine conditions. Examples of the two include herniated disc, bulging disc, spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis. Since the discs and vertebrae in the spine are so closely connected, it is not uncommon for a degenerative disc disease to lead to a degenerative spine condition.
How does spine degeneration occur?
Spinal degeneration often starts in the discs. The discs are round, cushionlike objects that sit in between the vertebrae and act as spacers to allow the vertebrae to bend and move without impacting each other.
Discs consist of two main components: a tough, elastic outer layer and an inner fluid. Certain factors, such as weight gain and constant movement, cause pressure to push down on the vertebrae and pinch the discs in between them. When this happens, the inner disc fluid is pressed against the inside of the elastic outer layer, trying to flatten and expand the disc under pressure. The elasticity in the outer layer pushes the fluid back into the middle of the disc to retain the proper height and shape. Eventually, the elasticity in the outer layer of the disc will wear down, allowing the disc to expand and flatten (bulging disc), collapse, or even break open and leak into the spinal canal (herniated disc).
As the disc deteriorates, the vertebra above it no longer has the proper support it needs to move and function. In some cases, the vertebra may collide with the one below it, causing limited mobility and possible bone spurs to form. In more severe cases, the vertebra above the damaged disc may move out of alignment and slip over top of the vertebra below it, creating a condition called spondylolisthesis.
Treatment for a degenerative spine
Many people suffering from pain and symptoms of spine degeneration find relief through conservative treatments. Certain nonsurgical treatments can lengthen and stretch the spine, relieving pressure from the damaged disc or vertebra. However, more advanced cases of spine degeneration may require spine surgery.
At Laser Spine Institute, we offer several types of minimally invasive spine surgery to treat spine degeneration. We understand that spine surgery is an important decision, which is why we have worked hard to provide patients with a safer and effective alternative to traditional spine surgery.
During traditional spine surgery, a large incision is required to reach the spine. This incision cuts and tears the nearby muscles, increasing a patient’s risk of infection and postoperative complications. Our minimally invasive surgery is performed through a small incision that does not disrupt the muscles surrounding the spine. Our procedures are more precise and offer a higher patient satisfaction score and shorter recovery time^ than traditional open back surgery.
Many patients can find relief through our minimally invasive decompression surgery, which removes a small portion of the damaged disc or bone to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve while still maintaining the stability of the spine. In some cases, a decompression surgery may be paired with a stabilization surgery to treat more advanced cases of spine degeneration. During a minimally invasive stabilization procedure, the entire damaged disc or vertebra is removed and the spine is stabilized with an artificial disc and/or bone graft. This allows the patient to still have mobility in the area of the surgery, unlike traditional fusion that permanently fuses together two or more vertebrae with a metal cage and rods, causing limited mobility in that area of the spine.
To learn more about how our minimally invasive surgery can help you find relief from degenerative spine conditions, contact Laser Spine Institute today and ask for a review of your MRI or CT scan. We can help you take the next step on your journey to pain relief.