When to consider surgery for degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease surgery is usually seen as a last-resort treatment for the condition, since so many patients are able to find relief through conservative symptom management options. Surgery does become an option if weeks or months of conservative treatments do not bring relief from pain and other symptoms commonly associated with this condition.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and are trying to find out if surgery is your best option, information is an important tool. Making the best decision about undergoing open spine surgery requires an understanding of this condition and the full range of treatment options that are available.

Degenerative disc disease causes and symptoms

Degenerative disc disease is largely associated with the natural aging process. The spinal discs, which cushion the vertebrae and allow the spine to bend and flex, are prone to lose water content with age. This causes the discs to lose their shape and shock-absorbing properties, potentially leading to bulging and herniated discs as well as other disc issues.

Deterioration of the spinal discs is very common, happening to most people to some degree or another after years of everyday wear and tear. Many patients don’t find out they have degenerative disc disease until they start to experience symptoms, which occur when displaced disc material compresses any of the nerves in the spinal cord. Commonly experienced symptoms include:

  • Chronic local pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Burning pain that radiates along the path of the nerve

Upon diagnosis, most physicians will treat degenerative disc disease with an initial course of conservative treatments including rest, light stretching, over-the-counter pain medication and massage, among others. More advanced treatment options can include epidural steroid injections and physical therapy.

The goal of surgical treatment for degenerative disc disease is to decompress the nerves that are affected by the damaged discs. Traditional open spine procedures require a large incision that cuts and tears muscles, leading to overnight hospitalization followed by a long and often painful recovery period. Because of this most physicians and patients will try to explore every possible option for symptom relief before looking at surgery.

Laser Spine Institute

If you are considering surgery but are concerned about the risks and difficulties involved with a traditional open spine procedure, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative to traditional procedures, offering our patients a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication. Using indirect viewing technology and dilating tubes, our surgeons are able to decompress nerves using a smaller incision that does not disrupt supporting muscles. These techniques have enabled us to help more than 75,000 patients get their lives back from neck and back pain in our comfortable outpatient centers.

To find out if you’re a candidate for one of our procedures to treat degenerative disc disease, contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review*.