About Degenerative Disc Disease

An Age-Related Condition Affecting Spinal Discs

The surgeons at miVIP Surgery Centers believe that an informed patient has a greater capacity to take control of their health. By understanding the issues that affect you, you can better understand how to effectively tackle treatments in a way that will individually benefit you.

Many of our patients see us for degenerative disc disease. Contrary to the name, this condition is not actually a disease. It refers to the progressive changes that spinal discs go through as they age. The discs act as cushions between the vertebrae, allowing the spine to twist, bend and stretch. Over time, the discs can breakdown, bulge and otherwise change, causing back and neck pain.

How Common is Degenerative Disc Disease?

It is believed that a large majority of the 65 million Americans with back pain have degenerative disc disease. Studies show that around 85 percent of people 50 years or older are also affected by the disease.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease

As we naturally age, our spinal discs have a tendency to break down. This is called degeneration. Over time, some people may experience the following internal issues related to their discs:

  • Damaged Discs – If the disc becomes cracked or torn, the lubricant-like material found inside them can be pressed out through the fissure which can cause the disc to rupture, bulge or break up.
  • Losing Fluid – Because the discs act as cushions, or shock absorbers, as the fluid in the discs lessens, so does the patient’s spinal flexibility. The lack of cushion also thins out the discs and creates a more narrow space between each vertebra.
An unstable and less flexible spine can develop bone spurs which put pressure on the spinal cord, resulting in issues with nerve function and pain. Other known causes of degenerative disc disease include:

  • Excessive physical labor
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Injury

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

Many people experience no symptoms as a result of degenerative disc disease, while others experience the following:

  • Mild to severe pain that worsens when sitting, bending, twisting or lifting
  • Pain in the low back, neck, buttocks or thigh, depending on the location of the affected disc
  • Relief from pain while walking compared to that of sitting or standing for a long time
  • Numbness and tingling in the limbs
  • Weak leg muscles

How to Treat Degenerative Disc Disease

After diagnosis, if rest, hot or cold compresses and pain relievers don’t treat the symptoms, and further complications like osteoarthritis or a herniated disc occur, a doctor may consider the following:

  • Physical Therapy – Routine back and neck exercises may help strengthen the spine and prevent or reduce pain.
  • Spinal Fusion – A spinal fusion refers to the surgical procedure that joins at least two vertebrae together. Given that movement often causes the pain, immobilizing the affected section of the spine can reduce discomfort. A cervical fusion is performed on the upper spine while a lumbar fusion is performed on the lower back.
  • Artificial Disc Replacement – An artificial disc is a device, made from metal or biopolymers, that is implanted into the spine to emulate the natural function of a healthy spinal disc.

Prognosis of Degenerative Disc Disease

The prognosis of degenerative disc disease depends on the severity of the condition. In some cases, physical therapy is sufficient to treat the disorder. Before and after surgery, avoiding injury, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting overuse of the spine can help prevent injury, manage pain or eliminate symptoms.

Seek Relief Today

If you suffer from back pain, contact miVIP Surgery Centers at 855-496-4847 to schedule an evaluation.

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