Degenerative disc disease and sciatica dual diagnosis

Some patients who receive a dual diagnosis of degenerative disc disease (DDD) and sciatica are surprised to learn that they have not one but two spine conditions. However, this is exceedingly common. In fact, sciatica is often caused by degenerative disc disease.

Sciatica itself is not a condition, but rather the result of a condition within the lumbar spine (lower back). The term sciatica describes a series of symptoms that result from sciatic nerve compression. This can be caused by a herniation when the nerves in the lower back are irritated. Learn about the treatment options available for you in the following article.

What is degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease describes the deterioration of a disc in the spine as the natural aging process causes the discs to become arthritic, narrow or shrink. The discs within the spine are responsible for absorbing shock to protect the joints and vertebrae. In order to effectively absorb the impact of daily activities, the discs are made of a liquid nucleus protected by a tough, elastic outer layer.

Due to time or injury, a disc can gradually break down and lose its cushion between each vertebra, causing degenerative disc disease. Some of the disc’s fluid is also lost, which results in stiffness and reduces mobility. Patients with degenerative disc disease are susceptible to developing a herniated disc, which means the outer layer of the disc (annulus fibrosus) has torn and the inner disc nucleus (nucleus pulposus) is bulging into the spinal canal. The torn disc material and the nucleus can impact the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica symptoms to appear.

What are the symptoms of sciatica?

Sciatica symptoms can include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Muscle weakness in the legs
  • Pain in the hip or buttocks

Due to the fact that the sciatic nerve travels from the lower back to the foot, symptoms can radiate throughout the length of the nerve pathway. Therefore, chronic foot pain can sometimes be attributed to a compressed sciatic nerve.

How are degenerative disc disease and sciatica treated?

Many patients with degenerative spine conditions are able to relieve their symptoms with conservative, nonsurgical methods such as physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), chiropractic care or steroid injections.

If you have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and sciatica, and conservative treatments have provided little to no relief after several weeks or months, you may be a candidate for the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures offer several benefits over traditional open back surgery, including a shorter recovery time.^

To treat a degenerative disc, our surgeons will either remove a small part of the disc that is compressing the sciatic nerve (decompression surgery) or remove the entire disc altogether and replace it with an artificial disc to stabilize the spine (stabilization surgery). Depending on the severity of the symptoms, our team of board-certified surgeons+ will assess which procedure is best in order to alleviate the pain associated with degenerative disc disease and sciatica.

Take the next step toward pain relief by contacting Laser Spine Institute today to schedule your no-cost MRI review* and learn about the advantages of our outpatient procedures.

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