Degenerative disc disease — a practical guide

During the aging process, our spinal discs begin to lose protein and water content that makes up approximately 90 percent of their mass. As this happens, the discs begin to lose elasticity and shrink, increasing the pressure on the disc from the surrounding vertebrae. For many patients with degenerative disc disease, no pain is ever experienced and the condition will often go undiagnosed. However, if the pressure placed on the disc caused it to bulge or herniate, the disc material can then compress or irritate surrounding nerve roots or the spinal cord, causing immense pain and discomfort.

Treatment for degenerative disc disease

Though degenerative disc disease itself does not necessarily cause pain, the conditions caused by the process of degeneration may include collapsed discs, bulging discs or herniated discs. These conditions may cause the patient to feel pain, numbness, weakness and tingling around the area of the compression or in corresponding body parts.

While many associate these spine conditions with the need for surgery, patients should first work with their doctor to exhaust conservative treatment options. These include:

  • Alternative methods. Alternative conservative treatments can include yoga, stretching and acupuncture.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine. Anti-inflammatory medicine can reduce swelling and often lower a patient’s overall discomfort.
  • Epidural injections. These are steroid injections into a specific area of the back to ease pain.
  • Exercise. The process to recover from pain includes strengthening your muscles. This will help with the stability of your neck or back over time. Talk to your physician about finding an exercise routine that is right for you and your conditions.
  • Physical therapy. Physical therapy can assist patients in getting back to their daily routine by learning how to approach day-to-day activities in a safer manner.
  • Rest. If you are dealing with a new onset of pain or discomfort, the first step you should take is to give yourself periods of intermittent rest. A large number of people who experience back pain find relief within the first three weeks through rest and conservative treatment.

When to consider surgery for degenerative disc disease

If after fully attempting conservative options you are still in pain and your doctor is recommending surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive procedures specialized to treat the symptoms and conditions associated with degenerative disc disease.

Call today to receive a free review of your MRI or CT scan* to see if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive treatments.