Degenerative Disc Disease 101

About 65 million American adults suffer from some kind of lower back pain in any given year. For many of these patients, the diagnosis will be degenerative disc disease. This is a very common cause of back pain and one of the most commonly treated conditions in our spine clinic. If you are suffering from lower back pain, there is a good chance that this could be the reason why. It’s important to educate yourself and work with your doctor to determine an accurate diagnosis so you can get the treatment that you need. Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments for this painful condition and many patients will experience relief.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease

There are a number of reasons degenerative disc disease can develop, and not all of them can be prevented or controlled. They include:

  • Genetics. You may simply be more prone to the condition thanks to the genes that you inherited from your mom and dad. There may be nothing you can do to stop the disease from affecting your spine, but you may be able to do things to slow down the development. More on that later in this article.
  • Age. This is probably the most common cause of the condition. Your back undergoes a great deal of stress and strain throughout your lifetime. Over time, your discs may start to break down simply from getting older and the pressure they’ve endured over your lifetime. As the bones become drier and more brittle as you age, there is greater risk for back pain to develop.
  • Accident or injury. Trauma to your spine from an auto accident or even a sports-related injury can create problems in your back that contribute to the deterioration of the discs in your spine.

Can You Prevent Degenerative Disc Disease?

In most cases, there may not be a way to prevent the deterioration of the discs in your spine. Reasons like genetics and your age are going to be tough to battle. However, if you know that you have a family history of degenerative disc disease in your family, there may be some preventative measures you can take. Those include keeping extra weight off (which can put a strain on your back) and taking joint health supplements such as glucosamine to help the joints maintain their cushioning and range of motion.

When degenerative disc disease is brought on by an accident or injury, though, there may be even less that you can do. Be sure to work with your doctor throughout your recovery to mitigate the damage that’s been done to you back. Give yourself plenty of time to rest and heal, and work with a physical therapist to restore mobility and strength to your back. On-going care can help prevent any issues from becoming more severe.

The Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

Do you think you could be suffering from degenerative disc disease? Here are some of the most commonly reported symptoms from patients in our spine clinic:

  • Pain in your lower back
  • Pain that travels to your extremities
  • Pain that gets worse when you are sitting or bending
  • Pain that gets worse when you lift a heavy object
  • Pain that gets better when you lie down
  • Numbness or tingling in your arms or legs

If you have symptoms that include the loss of your bladder or bowels, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease

Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments for degenerative disc disease. Our spine clinic recommends that you start with conservative treatments at home before you move on to surgical options.

At-Home Conservative Treatments

  • Taking over-the-counter anti inflammatory and pain medication
  • Plenty of rest
  • Alternating between ice packs and heating pads on the sore area
  • Exercises such as yoga that help strengthen the muscles in the back

If you don’t get relief from your back pain after trying these at-home treatments for a couple weeks, it might be time to talk about your surgical options.

Surgical Treatment Options

When it came to surgical options for degenerative disc disease, the most common options used to be the traditional open-back surgery. This required large incisions in the back muscles, long recovery times, and a lot of risk for complicated. Patients today are fortunate to have access to new methods that are either minimally invasive or least invasive. Those options could include:

  • Stem Cell Therapy. Using the patient’s own stem cells, strategic injections are made near the damaged discs. The stem cells help restore the damaged discs and promote healthy tissue growth in the area.
  • Endoscopic Discectomy. This procedure involves making a tiny incision in the patient’s back and then using microscopic surgical tools to access the damaged discs in the patient’s spine. The disc is decompressed and damaged material can be removed in order to give the patient relief from back pain.
  • Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Discectomy. This is similar to the endoscopic procedure, but requires a slightly larger incision in order for the surgeon to see the damaged area. Still less invasive than traditional open back surgery and requires less recovery time with fewer potential complications.

While these are some of the most common treatment options for degenerative disc disease, it is by no means a comprehensive list. Work with your spine clinic to determine the best course of treatment for your symptoms and lifestyle.

International Spine Institute Can Help With Your Back Pain

Do you believe that your lower back pain is being caused by degenerative disc disease? It’s important to start your treatment with an accurate diagnosis from International Spine Institute. Our team of medical professionals will work with you on a comprehensive diagnostic workup, getting the most accurate diagnosis possible. Next, they’ll go over your treatment options and help you choose the one that’s right for you. They’ll work with you every step of the way as you find the treatment that addresses your lower back pain and gives you back your range of motion, mobility, and quality of life.

Schedule an appointment with our team today for your free MRI review and find relief for your back pain.