If you’ve been diagnosed with a degenerative spine, it’s important to understand both the causes and treatment options for this common condition. A degenerative spine is often unavoidable, caused by the natural aging process of the spine, so don’t spend time wondering what you could have done differently and instead focus on the options available to help you manage the symptoms you may be experiencing.
What is a degenerative spine?
Degenerative spine is a term used to describe the gradual loss of function or structure that the spine can experience. The spinal column serves a crucial purpose in our bodies, allowing us to stand upright, bend or twist while also providing an important level of protection for the spinal cord. The spinal column is comprised of a complex series of muscles, ligaments, vertebrae and spinal discs, and any of these components can suffer from degeneration. A degenerative spine can lead to many other spinal conditions including bulging or herniated discs, bone spurs, osteoarthritis and more.
How is a degenerative spine diagnosed?
The diagnosis process for a degenerative spine usually starts with a thorough examination by a physician, which is likely followed by some type of imaging study of the spine, such as an MRI. If the MRI produces evidence of degeneration that is consistent with the patient’s symptoms, the physician will begin to develop a treatment plan. If the MRI doesn’t provide the needed answers, additional testing – including a discogram – may be necessary to determine if the patient’s pain is being caused by damage to a spinal disc.
What causes a degenerative spine?
If a patient has been diagnosed with a degenerative spine, it is usually the result of aging and the years of wear and tear the spine endures, but can also be caused by another condition such as an infection, tumor or traumatic injury. Whatever the cause, the components of the spine have begun to break down and lose some of their protective qualities. Some examples include spinal discs that have begun to flatten and lose their elasticity, or cartilage that has worn down to such an extent that it is no longer providing the needed cushion between the bones of a joint.
What are the symptoms of a degenerative spine?
Many people who have received a degenerative spine diagnosis may not experience pain or other symptoms, while others may be suffering from pain so intense that it limits their daily lives. If a degenerative spine diagnosis is related to degenerative disc disease, then the patient may experience localized and radiating pain, tingling, numbness and weakness. If spinal arthritis is present, the symptoms could include diminished flexibility, a limited range of motion, and tenderness.
What are some common treatments for a degenerative spine?
There are many conservative treatment options for conditions related to a degenerative spine. A physician may recommend a treatment plan that includes anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections and physical therapy to help reduce the symptoms. Lifestyle changes can also be an important part of a successful treatment plan, such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption and losing weight through healthy eating and exercise to help reduce the progression of degenerative spinal conditions.
Will I need surgery?
Many patients who have been diagnosed with a degenerative spine will not require surgery, but for some, their physician may recommend a surgical procedure when conservative treatments haven’t succeeded in reducing their symptoms. At Laser Spine Institute in Cincinnati, we offer minimally invasive surgeries that result in a shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open spine surgery. Contact us today if you would like to learn more about the outpatient surgeries we offer for many of the conditions associated with a degenerative spine. We offer a no-cost MRI review* that can help you determine if you are a candidate.