What should I do if I think I have degenerative disc disease?

If you believe that degenerative disc disease may be the cause of your neck or back pain, visit your primary care physician. He or she will review your medical history, perform a physical exam and inquire about your symptoms. Additionally, your physician may order an MRI or CT scan. An honest and accurate description of your symptoms greatly helps your physician to design an appropriate treatment plan if the diagnosis of degenerative disc disease is confirmed.

Causes and symptoms of DDD

Degenerative disc disease is the gradual deterioration of the intervertebral discs that separate adjacent vertebrae, absorb shock and protect the spinal cord. These discs weaken as part of the natural aging process. Other factors such as infection, associated disease, trauma, malnutrition and overexertion can also accelerate the degenerative process. Diseased discs become prone to the following conditions:

  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Bone spurs
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Herniated discs
  • Bulging discs
  • Disc protrusions

Many patients may have one or more of the above conditions without even realizing it because these abnormalities are not painful in and of themselves. However, when bone or soft tissue compresses nearby spinal nerve roots or the spinal cord itself, symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness or weakness can occur.

Treating degenerative disc disease

If your physician confirms a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease, he or she will work with you to design a regimen of conservative treatment. Conservative treatment may include pain medication, hot and cold compresses, intermittent rest or behavior modification. The majority of patients respond favorably to the management of their symptoms non-surgically. However, if you find that weeks or months of conservative treatments fail to provide you lasting pain relief, surgical treatment may be indicated. We perform a variety of minimally invasive outpatient procedures that are effective alternatives to traditional open spine surgery. Contact Laser Spine Institute to request a review of your MRI or CT scan, and find out if you could be a candidate for one of our state-of-the-art procedures.