Symptoms of degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) produces few or no symptoms by itself. Mild and localized symptoms may arise from inflammation in the discs. This type of symptoms is easily treated with rest and a dose of acetaminophen or another pain reliever. More intense localized pain is most likely not caused by degenerative disc disease but rather osteoarthritis of the spine. Moderate to severe symptoms that radiate to other areas of the body often require medical attention and these symptoms only arise when degenerative disc disease causes changes that compress and place pressure on nerve tissue.

Degenerative disc disease symptoms are often directly related to the extent of the disc height lost in the degenerative process, the amount of distortion found in a bulging disc or the volume of herniated disc material. Reduced disc height also means that the vertebral opening, or space through which spinal nerves travel, is decreased in size, possibly trapping the spinal nerve.

The tighter the entrapment, the worse the symptoms are. Bulging or herniated disc material can also reduce the diameter of the foramen between two spinal vertebrae or even the central vertebral foramen in which the spinal cord lies. As a degenerating disc loses its ability to absorb stress and provide support, other parts of the spine become overloaded, leading to irritation, inflammation, back pain, fatigue and muscle spasms. Read on to learn more about this chronic disease and the treatment options available to ease your symptoms.

Degenerative disc disease pain

The amount of pain caused by degenerative disc disease can vary from slightly irritating to severely debilitating. Most patients suffer some underlying chronic low back pain with intermittent episodes of severe pain. Usually, sitting, bending, twisting and lifting worsen the pain more than standing or lying down, which are positions that can relieve the strain on the disc space.

In addition to an aching and painful back, degenerative disc disease symptoms may also include numbness and tingling in the legs if the disc degeneration is located in the lower spine. Pain in the neck, shoulder blades, arms and hands, as well as numbness and tingling in the shoulders and arms, may be present when a degenerating disc is located in the cervical spine (neck). Thoracic (mid back) pain radiates around the rib cage and occasionally into the abdomen.

Degenerative disc disease treatment

After a proper diagnosis by a doctor, treatment should begin conservatively. A doctor may recommend nonsurgical therapies such as weight management, core strengthening, reducing heavy lifting and low-impact exercises in order to ease your degenerative disc disease symptoms.

However, sometimes it is possible that conservative treatments prove unsuccessful. If this is the case, you may be suggested to see if you are a candidate for surgery, such as the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. Laser Spine Institute offers safer and effective alternatives with shorter recovery periods^ compared to traditional open neck and back surgery. Our team of dedicated surgeons uses less than 1-inch incisions and muscle-sparing techniques to relieve chronic neck and back pain.

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery and has helped more than 75,000 patients to date find relief from conditions such as degenerative disc disease. Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* and to receive more information about our procedures.