Degenerative Disc Disease
Do you have chronic or acute pain that is related to back problems? Have you recently been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and are seeking conservative treatment?
The doctors at The Spine Center of Southeast Georgia are experienced and trained to diagnose and conservatively treat degenerative disc disease.
If you have any questions after reading this webpage, we invite you to schedule your consultation appointment, or call one of our offices nearest to you.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease, also nicknamed “DDD,” is actually not a disease. Instead, it’s a condition that describes normal changes of the spinal discs as time progresses.
What are spinal discs? Their purpose is to separate the spine’s bony vertebrae. The discs act as little shock absorbers for the spine.
The discs degenerate over time, making the spine less supple, which means patients cannot twist or bend their back as much as they once used to. As you can imagine, this can also cause pain, as well as a whole host of other symptoms.
Additionally, when the spinal discs wear down, additional problems may occur down the road, such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs, or osteoarthritis.
- pinched nerve
- herniated disc
- collapsed disc
- disc protrusion
- slipped disc
- torn disc
- ruptured disc
- disc disease
- black disc
- bulging disc
Using these terms interchangeably often confuses patients. However, patients only need to be concerned with understanding the precise medical diagnosis given by your doctor. This diagnosis will identify the actual cause of your back pain and other pain problems, and this is what’s most important.
Common Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
- muscle spasms
- back stiffness
- weak back
- bad back
- back gives out
- back pain (often described as painful aches)
- pain after back surgery
- intermittent pain during certain activities
- pain that ranges from minimal to disabling
- pain centered in the lower back, but then radiates to legs and hips
- continuous lower back pain with a duration of more than six weeks
- pain that seems worse when sitting, standing for long periods of time, bending forward, or lifting objects
- numbness/tingling in the legs or difficulty walking (severe symptoms of DDD)
It is important to note that DDD-related pain typically does not progress with age. The pain associated with degenerated discs lessens as time goes on. Typically, around age 60 a patient who has a degenerated disc will not experience much pain.
It is also important to note that sacroiliitis and degenerative disc disease can have similar presenting symptoms. It is always best to report all symptoms to your doctor to make the proper diagnosis.
Degenerative disc disease can worsen over time and present a whole host of other problems. A couple of these conditions include:
- lumbar radiculopathy (sciatica)
- chronic pain
What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?
The main areas of the spine which are the most susceptible to wear and tear as time progresses are the facet joints (the joints that stack the spine’s vertebrae).
As we get older, the spine’s cartilage (which is comprised of water and protein) changes. As you can probably guess, this results in a fragile, weaker, and thinner cartilage that must still support the spine.
Since the discs and facet joints are partly comprised of cartilage, they are subject to degeneration over time. This whole process often causes DDD. A spinal trauma injury can also lead to DDD.
Treatment and Care Options
A few different options exist in order to effectively treat DDD. These options include:
- epidural steroid injection
- high frequency spinal cord stimulator
- back injections
- transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) technique
- physical therapy
- anti-inflammatory medications
- specific exercises (i.e. hamstring stretching, stabilization exercises, aerobics)
- cortisone shots
- surgery (only if conventional, non-invasive treatments are unsuccessful)
Managing and Living With Degenerative Disc Disease
There are a few activities and actions you can do to help with your daily living.
- Find out the best ways to relieve your pain to a level you can tolerate.
- Incorporate an exercise regiment into your daily living routine, which should include rehabilitation if necessary.
- Make behavioral changes if necessary.
- Modify any activities if you determine the activity is aggravating the pain.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat a nutritious diet to promote a healthy spine.
Resources and Tools: What Should You Do Now?
Whether you are suffering from the symptoms of degenerative disc disease, or if you’ve been recently diagnosed, we can help you.
The first step to getting the proper treatment you deserve is scheduling an appointment with our doctors.