Is a Degenerated Disc causing my neck or back pain?
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Is a Degenerated Disc causing my neck or back pain?
Degenerative Disc Disease: Symptoms & Treatment Options
Our spinal discs, located between each vertebra, play an important role in having a healthy and flexible spine. Operating as shock absorbers, they facilitate the fluid, pain-free movement of our spine through a variety of daily activities. With their continuous and daily use, these discs can develop signs of wear and tear. Loss of disc height, flexibility, and lubrication are the results. Referred to as degenerative disc disease (or spondylosis), this condition can cause pain and numbness in the spine and limbs.
Although “disease” is in the name, degenerative disc disease is less of a disease and more of a gradual condition that develops naturally over time. In severe cases, degenerative disc disease can lead to debilitating symptoms that keep people from participating in life’s daily activities. This translates to lost time with family, inability to participate in one’s favorite pastimes, and missed days at work. In fact, it has been reported that there are over 100 billion dollars in economic losses each year that can be attributed to spine and disc problems.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is a common condition affecting millions of individuals in the U.S. every year. Some cases of degenerative disc disease appear as early as age 30. More typically, however, symptoms occur later in life and can depend on an individual’s lifestyle or activity. Some of the symptoms associated with Degenerative Disc Disease include the following:
- Localized pain at the site of the affected disc, ranging from a minor ache to debilitating pain.
- Radiating pain or numbness to the limbs as a result of lost disc height or pressure on nerves.
- Variable levels of pain and discomfort that can intensify for days, weeks, or months at a time.
- Pain that disappears entirely for a prolonged period of time before returning.
- Pain while sitting or reclining that is relieved by standing or changing positions.
- Stiffness and difficult or painful mobility due to inflammation surrounding the damaged disc.
- Weakness or stiffness in the lower extremities as a result of nerve damage and inflammation.
Our team at The Advanced Spine Center of New Jersey has years of training and expertise in providing patients with thorough examinations, accurate diagnoses, and effective treatments for disc problems. Our collaborative team will work with you to assess your options and provide you with viable alternatives for relief and lifelong injury prevention. Contact the Advanced Spine Team today to schedule a consultation.
Possible Consequences of Degenerative Disc Disease
If left untreated, sustained inflammation, loss of shock absorption and support, and loss of height between the vertebrae can lead to increasingly more severe conditions that may require surgery or could permanently compromise the structural integrity of the spine. Some of these possible conditions include:
Bulging or Herniated discs: Discs can bulge and even herniate, or break open, when their structural integrity is compromised by degeneration. Furthermore, these damaged discs can press on nerves, intensifying pain and related symptoms.
Bone Spurs: When our discs degenerate and lose their height, it can lead to bone-on-bone contact and subsequent inflammation. Bone spurs are bony growths that develop on existing bone, often occurring at points of friction and inflammation. These bony protrusions are your body’s attempt to create stability and decrease inflammation from friction. Unfortunately, bone spurs can press on nerves and cause congestion in the spine.
Facet Joint Pain: When a degenerated disc loses its height, this phenomenon can lead to a reduction in the normal and necessary space between your vertebrae. This may cause the facet joints to rub against each other in an abnormal fashion, leading to increased friction, damage, and pain. Nerve compression can also occur, resulting in pinched nerves or local scarring.
Spondylolisthesis: Spondylolisthesis occurs when instability in the spine causes one vertebra to slide forward over the vertebra beneath it. Degenerative disc disease can cause the instability that leads to this slippage.
To avoid any of these more severe conditions, seek medical advice today regarding your degenerated disc. Our team at The Advanced Spine Center can assist you in the recovery process by providing an individualized approach to spine care. We collaborate directly with you to address your spinal pain and avoid future complications!
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment Options
In severe cases, the degenerated disc may need to be replaced in order to provide relief. This state-of-the-art procedure uses minimally invasive techniques to remove the damaged disc and replace it with a prosthetic implant that mimics a healthy disc.
When instability caused by a damaged disc results in skeletal inflammation and friction, a spinal fusion of the vertebrae may be required. This may be necessary in extreme cases when disc degeneration has led to a herniated disc or spondylolisthesis.
Epidural Steroid Injections
Degenerated discs can produce inflammation and pain that is incapacitating. Minimally invasive epidural steroid injections target the problematic disc and reduce inflammation through the injection of corticosteroids into the disc body.
For some, a degenerated disc may still be intact, but it causes considerable pain nonetheless. In these situations, a more conservative treatment regimen may be warranted. Over-the-counter medications, physical therapy, or chiropractic care may be prescribed.