Types of degenerative disc disease by location
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a term used to refer to the gradual deterioration of the discs that cushion the vertebrae and allow for basic flexibility. Although not always painful, several types of disc deterioration symptoms can occur, depending on the location of the affected discs.
Cervical, thoracic and lumbar DDD
When degenerative disc disease affects the cervical (upper) spine, a patient may experience stiffness and loss of motion in the neck, as well as localized pain near the damaged disc. The disc may also press on the surrounding nerves, causing radiating symptoms like pain, numbness, weakness and tingling in the shoulders or arms.
In the thoracic (middle) spine, degenerative disc disease often causes pain around the site of the damaged disc, such as the middle back or chest. However, it can also produce symptoms such as radiating pain or weakness that affects the legs if the spinal cord is compressed. The thoracic spine is attached to the ribcage and is relatively stable, making this type of degenerative disc disease relatively rare.
The lumbar (lower) is the area most commonly affected by degenerative disc disease. This is because it supports so much weight while remaining flexible, which puts tremendous stress on the lumbar discs. When the discs in this section of the spine are damaged, they can cause lower back pain as well as radiating symptoms into the hips, buttocks, legs and feet.
Degenerative disc disease treatment
Upon diagnosis of any type of degenerative disc disease, doctors will almost always begin with conservative treatments. Although this isn’t a reversible condition, taking steps to manage pain and improve the health of the spine are very often effective in providing relief. A treatment plan typically includes medication, nutritional counseling, physical therapy, spinal injections and therapeutic massage to help accomplish these goals.
If you have exhausted conservative treatments and you’re investigating your surgical treatment options, consider the options offered by Laser Spine Institute. We specialize in minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^ Contact us today for information about our outpatient procedures and how we may be able to help you.
A member of our caring and dedicated team will be happy to provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.