Conditions We Treat

Degenerative Disc Disease

Our vertebral column has 33 vertebrae joined with tendons and ligaments at the facet joints. Intervertebral discs separate these vertebrae. These discs contain a jelly-like substance that cushions and helps ease the movement of each vertebra.

woman on a walker

How is Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosed?

Only by ruling out other probable causes can doctors make a diagnosis. The doctor will take a thorough medical history and carry out a physical examination. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) examinations may be performed, but it is crucial to mention that an MRI cannot detect degenerative disc disease. For example, some persons have severe pain but no radiologic abnormalities, whereas others may have indications of disc degeneration but no symptoms. An MRI should be done with other diagnostic criteria to rule out other possible causes of pain.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is primarily caused by aging, but the onset of symptoms varies. Some people suffer severe pain, while others do not.

The progression of pain in people who do experience pain has been referred to as a degenerative cascade process. In general, this process goes as follows:

  • Acute disc injury occurs
  • The injury causes spine instability and inflammation, as well as intermittent episodes of pain
  • Healing corrects the instability

Pain is caused by an injury that induces inflammation and disc compression. It causes spinal instability and the possibility of reflexive muscular spasms. Initially, it will cause acute pain. If left untreated, it will become chronic pain. Pain may come and go, with episodes of extreme pain followed by periods of no pain. Pain often decreases as the instability resolves with treatment. However, if the pain persists or worsens (becomes chronic), it is crucial to rule out other possible causes.

Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease

This disease is typically managed as conservatively as possible. Here are five potential therapies, several of which act concurrently for the best results:

1. Comfort Measures:

To reduce pain and inflammation, apply heat or ice to the affected area. Consult your doctor about which may be the most successful for you. Remember that rest is only advised during the acute phases of injury.

2. Exercise:

Core strength and aerobic conditioning contribute to the improvement of overall physical fitness. Core strength, in particular, can increase the flexibility of your spine and relieve pressure on discs.

The purpose of these exercises is to alleviate the pain linked with degenerative disc disease.

They focus on the lower back, hip, and upper leg, to relieve strain on your vertebrae.

Knee to Chest Stretch:

This exercise strengthens the lower back muscles and reduces spine stress while simultaneously increasing the flexibility of the hamstrings and hips.

  • Lie on your back
  • Extend your arms and legs
  • Gently lift your right leg up and toward your chest. Maintain your other leg’s straightness.
  • Using both hands, gently bring your raised knee up toward your chest.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then release
  • Repeat with the other leg.
  • You should do this exercise three times each day.

Bird Dog Stretch:

This stretch benefits your hips, thighs, and lower back and you can do it while lying down on a mat or carpet.

  • Get on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips.
  • Extend your right arm to the side.
  • Extend your opposite left leg outwards gradually as well. Hold your core tight for eight seconds.
  • Repeat this exercise three times on each side of your body.

Cat Stretch:

It is another exercise designed to reduce pressure on your hips and spine.

  • Begin on your hands and knees
  • Place your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
  • Gently arch your back by bending your neck as far as comfortable toward your chest. Hold the position for 30 seconds.
  • Reverse the movement by raising your neck and oppositely arching your back. Hold the position for 30 seconds.
  • You can do this workout three to five times per day.

Back Extension:

It is an all-purpose back workout that will help you alleviate tense muscles and reduce pain in the long run.

  • Lie down on your stomach, torso lifted, arms extended outward.
  • With your palms on the ground, raise your neck and body until you feel a stretch in your lower back and abdominal muscles.
  • Relax after holding this position for at least 30 seconds.
  • Repeat this low-intensity stretch throughout the day as needed.

3. Over-The-Counter Medications:

Mild chronic pain can be managed with medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) can also help reduce inflammation. It is crucial to understand that opioids are no longer advised for chronic pain management.

4. Physiotherapy:

Physiotherapy can help with therapeutic exercise, moderate stretching, electrical stimulation, traction, and other things. A physical therapist can assist you in performing these exercises correctly to ease discomfort and strengthen your body.

5. Surgery:

Surgical procedures are used only when all other hope is lost. There are several surgical options available:

  • Spinal Fusion restricts joint movement around a damaged disc to relieve pain.
  • Dynamic Stabilization is similar to fusion but includes more flexible materials such as an internal brace to permit more movement.
  • Disc Arthroplasty, or Artificial Disc Replacement, implants a brand-new disc.
  • In some cases, Nucleoplasty (disc material removal) restores function and reduces pain.
  • Remember that surgery does not provide relief for everyone. Post-operative pain and stiffness may limit a complete return to preoperative activity levels.

Improving Patients’ Quality of Life Through Personalized Care

If you’re struggling with neck, back, or hip pain or any other spine related issues, schedule an appointment with us today to get back to living your life the way you’d like to.

Common Conditions We Treat