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 doctor. He or she will review your medical history, perform a physical evaluation and ask about your symptoms. Additionally, your doctor may order an MRI or CT scan.
Be prepared to give an honest and accurate description of your symptoms as this can help you work to develop an effective treatment plan if the diagnosis of degenerative disc disease is confirmed. It is also beneficial to educate yourself as much as possible as a patient about this condition, including the causes, symptoms and the full range of treatment options available.
Causes and symptoms of DDD
Degenerative disc disease is the gradual deterioration of the 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. Degenerated discs become prone to the following conditions:
- Bone spurs
- Spinal stenosis
- Herniated discs
- Bulging discs
- Disc protrusions
It is possible to have one or more of the above conditions without even realizing it because degenerative spine conditions are not necessarily painful. However when bone or soft tissue compresses nearby spinal nerve roots or the spinal cord, symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness or weakness can occur.
Treating degenerative disc disease
If your doctor confirms a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease, he or she will work with you to design a conservative treatment plan. This can include medication, hot and cold compresses, periods of rest, physical therapy, massage and spinal injections. A high number of patients respond favorably to the management of their symptoms nonsurgically.
However, if you find that weeks or months of conservative treatments are unable to provide you lasting pain relief, surgical treatment may be recommended. At Laser Spine Institute, we perform minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative^ to traditional open spine surgery.