Degenerative disc disease treatment — when is it necessary?

Degenerative disc disease refers to the gradual deterioration of the spinal discs that cushion the vertebrae. These discs absorb shock and reduce the stress placed on the spine. However, over time the discs can lose protein and water content, making them less able to absorb the pressure being placed on them every day. This deterioration is a normal part of the aging process and is not necessarily symptomatic; many people have this condition to some degree and never require treatment.

A degenerative disc can become a problem if it becomes displaced and leads to narrowing in the spinal column, also known as spinal stenosis. Loss of disc height, disc bulges and disc herniation related to degenerative disc disease can constrict the already tight nerve pathways in the spine, causing painful nerve compression symptoms that require treatment.

Nerve compression symptoms related to degenerative disc disease

Nerve compression can result in a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Local pain in the neck or back
  • Pain that travels along the compressed nerve
  • Unexpected muscle weakness or the feeling of fatigue
  • Numbness in the extremities
  • Sciatica pain in one or both legs

Patients experiencing any of these symptoms for more than a brief period of time should see their doctor for diagnosis and to develop a treatment plan.

Surgical and conservative degenerative disc disease treatment

If degenerative disc disease is the underlying cause of symptoms, treatment usually begins with nonsurgical conservative treatments. Doctors typically recommend some combination of rest, hot/cold therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy to relieve symptoms. Although it is a nonreversible age-related condition, specific cases of nerve compression related to degenerative disc disease can potentially improve with proper treatment and a healthy lifestyle.

Spine surgery to treat degenerative disc disease may become an option if a full course of treatment is attempted and symptoms don’t improve, or they worsen. As a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine procedures,^ Laser Spine Institute provides minimally invasive spine surgery that is performed on an outpatient basis. Contact our dedicated team today to learn more about how we can treat degenerative disc disease.

We’re happy to offer a free review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.