Now Offering FAST TRACK. Same day treatments available. Book Now

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease typically starts when a small laceration appears in the disc panel, otherwise known as the annulus. These lacerations or tears may result in pain and discomfort.

What is degenerative disc disease?

As the laceration or tear heals, it will create scar tissue that is normally as sturdy or durable as the native tissue. In the event that the back is frequently subjected to injury, the disc wall will continue to weaken and scarring and tearing may persist.

Over a period of time, the middle of the disc will become damaged which results in the loss of its fluid. The core of the disc and its water content is essential to maintaining the disc’s functionality as a cushion or spring for the spinal column.

When the core of the disc fails to act as a cushion, the center of the disc collapses. This results in the two vertebrae rubbing together.

Over time, the vertebrae will form bone spurs. Should these bone spurs develop inside the spinal canal, they will narrow the canal resulting in the pinching of the spinal cord and nerves which is a condition known as spinal stenosis.

What are the symptoms of degenerative disc disease?

The most common symptom of degenerative disc disease is pain in the neck or back. However, some people with this condition do not experience pain. The following are symptoms of degenerative disc disease.

  • Pain when twisting, reaching, bending, or with movement
  • Pain that limits your daily activities
  • Pain felt from the neck through the arm or hands
  • Pain that radiates down the legs or buttocks
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Pain that lessens with movement such as walking

What causes degenerative disc disease?

The primary cause of degenerative disc disease is aging. Spinal discs naturally wear down as we age, causing a loss of fluid in our discs. Aging can lead to cracks in our discs as well.

Those with physically demanding occupations are more likely to develop degenerative disc disease. Smoking and obesity can lead to the condition as well. It can also be caused by injury.

Form of Arthritis

The “wear and tear” that occurs with degenerative disc disease is a type of arthritis occurring in the spinal region. The term arthritis refers to inflammation that causes pain, swelling, or impedes movement. Arthritis may occur at any junction or joint where one bone meets another.

Juvenile Disc Degeneration

Some children suffer from degenerative disc disease. Often, these individuals are found to be overweight or obese. Research shows that those with an elevated body mass index are more likely to experience this condition. Many experts believe that genetics may also be a factor.

Children can incur disc damage due to injury. Many characteristics of the condition are similar in both children and adults, with one key exception. Adults tend to have degeneration in only one or two discs, while children generally have degeneration in many discs.

How is degenerative disc disease treated?

Types of Prescription Medications

Prescription-strength non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be effective in minimizing inflammation. A non-narcotic form of oral steroid is another commonly used option. These products are used over a short period of time with the dosage often reducing over several days. Some muscle relaxers have proven to be effective including Soma and Flexeril which reduce spasms and have a sedative effect.

Physical Therapy

A treatment regimen of physical therapy is often effective for treating degenerative disc disease and other similar conditions. PT is largely based on using body movement to strengthen muscles, such as those in the back and neck regions. The increase in muscle strength adds support and eases the pressure on the spine.

Surgical Treatment

Surgical procedures may be considered when more conservative measures are unsuccessful. Surgery may be a solution when there is significant pain that inhibits daily function. Many suffering from degenerative disc disease may experience numbness in the legs and be too weak to stand or walk comfortably.

Surgery may be considered if a disc has become large enough to create problems with the bladder or bowels. More than 90% of problems with discs will improve to some extent without surgery. Some common procedures that may be used include the following:

  • Spinal fusion or stabilization: The process of fusion involves merging two vertebrae. It is most commonly performed in the lower back region or in the neck area for strength and support. One potential drawback is that any adjacent discs may respond by degenerating further.
  • Discectomy: This involves removing damaged spinal discs and then performing a spinal fusion to limit movement in that area of the spine.
  • Decompression: This surgical option involves removing a part of a disc to relieve pressure.

AZ Pain and Spine Institute
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatments

Here at Arizona Pain and Spine Institute, we improve our patients’ quality of life by alleviating and managing their pain. Some of our Degenerative Disc Disease treatments include:

Why Choose AZ Pain - Image

Why choose AZ Pain and Spine Institute to treat your Degenerative Disc Disease?

We have a team of medical practitioners, pain management doctors, and staff who are experts on pain management, including Degenerative Disc Disease. We use state-of-the-art technology and effective approaches in achieving our mission. We care about your well-being and are committed to making your life pain-free.