Most of us have suffered from lower back pain at one time or another. Lower back pain is often caused by degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease usually affects adults age 30 to 60, and it occurs naturally as part of the aging process. To combat the negative effects of degenerative disc disease, our Hackettstown and Newton spinal team may recommend physical therapy or disc surgery.
What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease is a condition wherein a vertebral disc is damaged. The damaged disc can cause chronic lower back pain and/or leg pain (sciatica) in the lumbar spine. A damaged vertebral disc can also cause chronic neck and/or arm pain in the cervical spine. Along with pain, a damaged or degenerated disc can cause numbness and weakness. Pain caused by a damaged disc can become chronic and last for years. The pain could also be periodic, coming and going but never really resolving. There are also people with degenerative disc disease who experience no pain whatsoever. For those who do experience pain, that pain can range from very mild to extremely severe.
What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?
A disc can be damaged by an injury that involves twisting of the lower back. More often, it occurs naturally as part of the aging process. Given enough time, everyone experiences disc degeneration to one degree or another. Over time, discs wear out. As a result of injury or degeneration, the inner and/or outer areas of a disc tear. The tearing exposes nerves in the spine and irritates them, sometimes causing pain. Injured discs can herniate and pinch spinal nerves, thus causing the sharp pain in the legs known as sciatica. A degenerated disc can also cause instability in the surrounding vertebrae because it can no longer hold that vertebral segment together properly.
How Is Degenerative Disc Disease Treated?
Discs have no blood supply and few nerve endings. The lack of a blood supply prevents a disc from healing itself. In spite of the name, this condition is not necessarily degenerative, and it is not even technically a disease. Rather, the name applies to the progressive deterioration of the disc itself. Pain levels generally do not get worse over time. In fact, the pain can actually decrease over time. Dr. Spivak will initially treat pain associated with degenerative disc disease by prescribing physical therapy and/or chiropractic treatments. Other noninvasive treatments he may suggest include weight loss for patients who are overweight, stem cell therapy, and/or injections of steroids and local anesthetics.
Surgical Treatments For Degenerative Disc Disease
When the noninvasive treatments mentioned above are ineffective and pain is severe, Dr. Spivak may want to explore surgical options with you. A number of innovative surgical treatments for degenerative disc disease are available today. Two surgical interventions used to treat degenerative disc disease are endoscopic laser discectomy and endoscopic fusion. Dr. Spivak will discuss all surgical options with you and help you to decide whether disc surgery for degenerative disc disease would be right for you.
As a board-certified neurosurgeon and the president of Executive Spine Surgery in Hackettstown, NJ, Dr. Carl Spivak is internationally recognized for his commitment to minimally invasive spinal surgery and state-of-the-art endoscopic spinal techniques.