Degenerative Disc Disease: Causes and Treatment
Degenerative disc disease occurs when wear and tear on the spinal discs causes pain that makes movement difficult. If you have degenerative disc disease, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Shooting pain in the legs or arms
- Low back and neck pain
- Spinal instability accompanied by muscle spasms
- Worsening pain when sitting or bending
However, some people with this condition have no symptoms. Let’s look at the most common causes and treatment options for this condition.
What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?
Your spinal discs form a cushion between two vertebrae. The discs have a tough outer wall (annulus fibrosis) that protects the soft inner core. When the condition of a disc changes due to age or other factors, degenerative disc disease can result from a combination of the following circumstances:
- Dryness. Spinal discs consist mostly of water. They lose water as you age and become thinner, resulting in less padding for your vertebrae.
- Cracks. Over time, typically starting between ages 30 and 50, minor injuries and movements create tiny tears in the outer walls of your spinal disc. Besides being painful, these tears caused the wall to break down, allowing the inner core of the disc to penetrate through cracks. This can cause a herniated or slipped disc and injure the surrounding nerves.
- Inflammation. Proteins leaking through from inside the disc can cause swelling along the spine. In turn, this creates muscle spasms, tension and tenderness in your neck and back. As a result, a nerve root may become inflamed, causing pain and numbness to radiate through your arms (cervical radiculopathy) or legs (lumbar radiculopathy).
- Spinal instability. As the disc continues to degenerate, it can cause unnatural motions and instability between vertebrae. These motions cause irritation and bursts of intense pain in joints, muscles, and nerve roots surrounding the impacted area.
Treatment Solutions for Degenerative Disc Disease
Prior to recommending surgical solutions, Dr. Lewis will do everything in his power to alleviate the pain and tenderness caused by degenerative disc disease.
Here are potential treatment options recommended to some patients:
- Ice or cold therapy
- Heat therapy
- Pain medications (as prescribed or recommended by your physician)
- TENS units. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation therapy involves a device that uses electrical pulses to interrupt your body’s pain signals.
- Epidural Steroid Injections. Injections around the disc’s outer layer provide temporary relief.
- Exercises such as stretching and strengthening conducted following the advice of Dr. Lewis or another physician.
- Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, drinking more water, quitting smoking, and proper nutrition.
Surgical Solutions for Degenerative Disc Disease
If your degenerative disc disease doesn’t respond to nonsurgical treatment, you may be a good candidate for a surgical solution. This is particularly true if your leg, neck, or back pain limit your ability to complete day-to-day tasks, you have weakness and numbness in your legs, or the condition makes it difficult for you to walk.
Dr. Lewis may use artificial discs to replace your damaged, cracked, or ruptured lumbar or cervical disc. Fortunately, we use minimally invasive surgery that preserves motion. This is a huge improvement over traditional spinal fusion surgeries that eliminated the joint. Instead, a prosthetic device imitates the function of a real disc.
Due to the less invasive procedure, your body can heal more quickly, reducing recovery times and getting you up and moving faster.
At Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, we aim to treat your spinal condition with nonsurgical solutions because that’s the least invasive way to obtain relief and regain functionality. However, we are fully equipped and prepared to perform minimally invasive surgical techniques to help you get back to pain-free living. Dr. Lewis has treated degenerative disc disease and other spinal conditions for over 30 years, and many of the surgical solutions we offer are outpatient procedures, so you can heal in the comfort of your own home.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation regarding degenerative disc disease and other spinal conditions. We’ll find the right solution that works for you. Call us at (601) 366-1011.