Degenerative disc pain

Nerve compression in the neck and back is a common side effect of degenerative disc disease.

Degenerative disc disease is damage to a disc in the spine due to the natural degeneration process of the spine. Over time, the spongy discs positioned between each set of vertebrae in the spine degenerate due to increased pressure from the vertebrae caused by weight gain and repetitive motions.

With disc degeneration, there is an increased risk of disc herniation, thinning or bulging. While this does not cause symptoms, it could lead to nerve compression in the spine, which could result in chronic pain and limited mobility. For example, disc thinning reduces the spacing between vertebrae, which could potentially trap and pinch a nerve root traveling between the vertebrae. Additionally, a bulging disc may protrude into the spinal canal and impact a nerve root. All of these instances result in pain and symptoms.

Pain management for degenerative disc pain

The specific types of degenerative disc pain vary from patient to patient, depending on the location and severity of the condition. Typically, a physician performs a physical examination and asks for medical background information, and then confirms the presence of degenerative disc disease with an MRI or CT scan. Once the diagnosis is made and the location and severity of the damaged disc is determined, pain management can begin.

Treatment of degenerative disc pain typically begins with a conservative course of action, including:

  • Rest
  • Physical therapy or stretching exercises
  • The application of heat and/or ice
  • Pain medication
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • And more

If you have tried these treatments for several months and have not found sufficient pain relief, a physician may suggest a surgical treatment.

Traditionally, degenerative disc symptoms have been surgically treated with an open back procedure. These surgeries, however, are massively intrusive and painful and require a lengthy recovery period.^

One alternative to traditional open back surgery is minimally invasive spine surgery. At Laser Spine Institute, our staff of surgeons addresses degenerative disc pain with one of several minimally invasive procedures. Unlike traditional surgery, our procedures are performed on an outpatient basis. They involve less risk and require a much shorter recovery period^ than traditional open back procedures.

Patients with degenerative disc disease will often undergo a minimally invasive discectomy, which removes a small portion of the damaged disc without altering the stability of the spine. By removing this small portion, the pinched nerve will be released and the symptoms of pain will be alleviated. In some cases, the entire disc may need to be removed and replaced with an artificial disc to stabilize the spine. This is called a discectomy and stabilization procedure.

To learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery, and for a review of your MRI or CT scan, contact Laser Spine Institute today.