Degenerative Disc Disease
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease describes a group of symptoms that may result from the gradual wear and tear of spinal discs or from an acute spinal injury. Not actually a disease, this is a condition in which a damaged disc causes pain. A wide range of symptoms and severity is associated with this condition.
Several factors can contribute to disc degeneration, including age. Other causes can be from the drying out of the disc. At birth, the spinal disc consists of 80% water and as we begin to age, gradually the water content diminishes, causing the disc to not absorb shock as well. Daily activities and sports can also case tears to the outer core of the disc. Degenerative disc disease is usually associated with the normal effects of aging. The discs between the bones of the spine are made up of cartilage, fibrous tissue, and water. With age, these discs can weaken and may flatten, bulge, or break down. By the age of 60, most individuals have some level of disc degeneration, however not everyone suffers from back pain.
Injuries can also cause disc degeneration, symptoms of which are swelling, soreness and instability of the spine, all of which can result in lower back pain symptoms. Other signs and symptoms of degenerative discs include pain that is worse when sitting and pain that becomes worse while bending, lifting or twisting. Numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, weakness in the leg muscles or foot drop, which is a potential sign of damage to the nerves. Pain that radiates to the buttocks and thighs, arms and hands as well. Muscle spasms or tension are another sign of degenerative disc disease. As the discs undergo change, the body may react and develop bony growths called bone spurs. In severe cases, these bone spurs may take up room needed by the spinal cord and surrounding nerves to move freely in the spinal canal. Disc degeneration can lead to other spinal problems such as scoliosis where the spine develops a curved shape caused by disc degeneration in different directions. Spinal stenosis which causes the spinal cord or nerves to become compressed or pinched. Spondylolisthesis where vertebra slips onto one another. Osteoarthritis in the spine which causes changes of the joints from disc degeneration.
Treatment typically starts with nonsurgical methods that may provide sufficient symptom relief. When you request an appointment with one of our minimally invasive spine specialists, he or she will carefully examine your medical history, conduct a physical exam and request that an MRI scan is taken to determine which treatment approach will best meet your health goals. If you are a candidate for nonsurgical or minimally invasive spine treatment, our experts will try these approaches first before considering surgery for degenerative disc disease.
Treatment for degenerative disc disease will depend on the severity of the condition. In most cases, the problem is not severe enough to require surgery. Some treatment options used for degenerative disc disease include:
- Epidural steroid injection
- Spinal cord stimulator
- Physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medications/narcotics
- Back injections
- Cortisone injections
- Stem cell/PRP therapy and platelet rich fibrin therapy
- The Biodisc® Procedure using the body’s own natural fibrin material to help the degenerative discs to heal through a minimally invasive procedure completed within 1-2 hours.
If degenerative disc disease leads to or worsens spinal stenosis, myelopathy or radiculopathy, our minimally invasive spine experts can help address these conditions as well. Let us help you to get your life back. A good treatment plan can help to relieve your discomfort and return you to a pain-free and active lifestyle. Cell Bionics Institute offers a comprehensive spine functional restoration program to help patients with all of their spine care needs. With every treatment, we work to help with your current health situation, while also keeping your future health in consideration. The Biodisc® procedure is a much less invasive option, with a much more shortened recovery period than a more invasive procedure, such as spinal fusion surgery. See if you might be a candidate for Biodisc® today. Request a consultation with a spine care expert to discuss a treatment customized treatment plan to help with your back pain.