Degenerative disc disease in the neck

Age-related wear on the body is something everyone has to deal with. As we age, our bodies — and even the discs in our spines — tend to lose water and restorative function. If you’re dealing with chronic neck pain, it could be related to degenerative disc disease, a condition that can occur in the neck or anywhere else along the spine.

The spinal discs cushion the vertebrae; this allows for head movement in the cervical spine (upper). Years of everyday activity can cause these discs to dry out and lose their shape, potentially leading to painful nerve compression. Learning about this condition can help you and your doctor diagnose the exact cause of your neck pain and increase your chances of getting effective treatment.

Symptoms and treatment of degenerative disc disease

Patients usually feel neck soreness, stiffness or have trouble turning their head without pain. Neck pain might also radiate down the shoulders and arms, or the hands may tingle or feel numb. This discomfort comes from compressed or pinched nerves. These nerves are put under increasing pressure when the space between the vertebrae slowly shrinks as the disc deteriorates.

If you experience some or all of these symptoms and they do not improve in a short time, visit your primary physician. Come prepared to answer questions about the duration and severity of the pain. Before your visit, try to find out whether a relative has been diagnosed with the condition, as it can be hereditary. An X-ray or MRI can reveal the level of disc degeneration, if any.

Nonsurgical treatments for cervical degenerative disc disease include:

  • Cold or hot packs
  • Pain medicine like acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Cervical traction, or gentle pulling by a licensed professional
  • Neck brace

Strengthening or stretching exercises, if the neck pain allows, may also be recommended. Physical therapy might be prescribed to strengthen your neck muscles and help you manage the pain. Never begin a new exercise regimen without consulting your physician.

When to consider surgery

If the pain continues to affect your quality of life after weeks or months of nonsurgical treatments, it might be time to consider one of the minimally invasive outpatient procedures offered at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures are an alternative to traditional open spine surgery, offering a shorter recovery time^ with less surgical scarring for our patients. As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, we have helped more than 75,000 patients get their lives back from chronic neck and back pain.

Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to learn if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive spine procedures.