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Learn about degenerative disc disease and how we treat it at Laser Spine Institute in St. Louis

Degenerative disc disease, which affects most adults over the age of 50, is a broad term that can be used to describe a variety of conditions that impact the spinal discs. Often referred to as the spine’s shock absorbers, spinal discs endure a great deal of wear and tear, which inevitably leads to some form of deterioration.

How to define degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease is actually the natural deterioration of spinal discs. While the name sounds scary, there’s no guarantee that its symptoms will worsen through the years. In fact, there are treatment options available that can reduce or potentially eliminate the symptoms of this common condition.

Receiving a degenerative disc disease diagnosis

If you are experiencing pain or other symptoms in your neck or spine and you suspect degenerative disc disease, it’s important to see a physician to receive a diagnosis. This process usually involves a review of your medical history as well as a physical exam to identify sources of pain and test your reflexes, flexibility, range of motion and muscle strength. The next step in the diagnostic process will likely be an imaging test, such as an MRI or CT scan, to help pinpoint the source of your symptoms.

There are many potential causes of degenerative disc disease

Years of pressure from excess weight, bending, twisting and sudden impacts can have a toll on a spinal disc, which is comprised of a tough outer layer and a gelatinous inner core. When a disc begins to deteriorate, it can lose its water content, flatten, weaken and lose elasticity. Degenerative disc disease and other degenerative spinal conditions are most common in people over the age of 50 due to the natural deterioration of the spine.

Common symptoms of degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease does not always result in noticeable symptoms. However, there are several degenerative disc conditions that can cause pressure to be put on a spinal nerve root or the spinal cord, resulting in symptoms such as pain, muscle weakness, tingling and numbness. The location of these symptoms is dependent upon the location of the affected spinal disc and can range from the neck, shoulders, arms and hands to the lower back, hips, buttocks, legs and feet.

Navigating the treatment options for degenerative disc disease

The treatment options that your doctor prescribes for your degenerative disc disease symptoms will depend upon the severity of your symptoms and the area of your spine that has been affected. Your treatment plan will likely include a combination of conservative options such as pain medications, physical therapy, exercise and stretching. You may also be asked to consider a healthier lifestyle to eliminate excess body weight that can speed disc degeneration. Another potential option is alternative treatments such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, yoga or herbal remedies.

Surgery may also be a treatment option for degenerative disc disease

If you’ve attempted the conservative degenerative disc disease treatments prescribed by your doctor for several months and you are still experiencing symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, you may need to consider surgery.

For patients in St. Louis, MO, Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive spine surgery that is often the clinically appropriate first choice and provides many advantages versus open neck or back surgery.^ If you would like to learn more about outpatient surgery for degenerative spinal conditions, contact us today.