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Degenerative disc disease

What is degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) may sound alarming, but it is a common condition that many people experience as they grow older. DDD refers to the gradual deterioration of the discs in the spine. These discs are very resilient (they serve as shock absorbers for the spine), but they tend to lose their elasticity and become smaller and more brittle over time. This process is referred to as degenerative disc disease.

What causes degenerative disc disease?

Disc degeneration is typically attributed to the normal aging process and is not usually caused by a specific trigger. However, there are certain things that can accelerate the degenerative process. These include factors like trauma, tobacco use and carrying excess body weight.

Degenerative disc disease symptoms

On its own, disc degeneration generally does not cause any symptoms. However, as spinal discs wear down and change in shape, the nerve roots that are located between each vertebra can become compressed. This can be painful, and can also cause tingling and numbness to occur along the path of the affected nerve.

Sometimes, disc degeneration can lead to other complications, such as herniated discs, which can cause symptoms of their own.

Degenerative disc disease diagnosis

When a patient discusses his or her back pain with a physician, the physician will typically take the patient’s medical history, ask about his or her symptoms and order an imaging scan to determine the underlying cause of pain. A degenerative disc disease diagnosis can usually be made by reviewing the results of an X-ray, CT scan or MRI.

Common treatments for degenerative disc disease

Once a physician has determined the cause of a patient’s back pain, the physician can start making individualized treatment recommendations. These recommendations may include over-the-counter medications, prescription painkillers, physical therapy and hot/cold therapy.

For most people, these treatments provide significant relief from pain after several weeks or months of consistent therapy. However, there are some situations in which nonsurgical treatments do not produce the desired results, and surgery becomes a potential option.

Can I get surgery?

Deciding to have degenerative disc disease surgery is a major decision and is best made with the guidance of an experienced medical professional. Many individuals are able to manage their symptoms without surgery, although others do not find the relief they are looking for in nonsurgical treatments.

When it comes to surgical treatment, there are many different options to consider, including the minimally invasive spine surgery used at Laser Spine Institute in Cincinnati. Our surgical techniques have many advantages over traditional open spine surgery, including a shorter recovery time^ and a lower risk of complication.

To learn more about our approach to degenerative disc disease surgery and to find out if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost MRI review* today.