What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Treatment in Huntsville, AL

Degenerative disc disease is actually not a disease at all, but rather, is a condition that consists of symptoms of back or neck pain caused by natural wear and tear of the spine over time. There are two main factors that contribute to the pain associated with degenerative disc pain:

  • Inflammation: swelling surrounding the spinal structures that cause tension of the muscles or localized tenderness of the neck or back.
  • Abnormal Micro-Motion Instability: direct motions between vertebrae that cause both tension and irritation of nearby muscles, nerves, or joints which result in intense bouts of pain.

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

Chronic, low-grade pain is the most common symptom associated with degenerative disc disease. This pain will radiate outward from the degenerating disc, and may also occasionally cause sudden bursts of debilitating pain. This flash of severe pain may be the result of an aggravation of the disc, possibly caused by some sort of strenuous activity or particular positioning.

Another common symptom is a feeling similar to the neck or back giving out as if it can no longer support itself. This may also cause the spine to lock up for a short time, making mobility incredibly difficult.

How Is Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosed?

There are several methods used in diagnosing degenerative disc disease such as:

  • Review of the patient’s medical history
  • A physical exam
  • Imaging tests

Treatment Options

Once a case of degenerative disc disease has been diagnosed, the physician will advise some sort of treatment. For mild cases, simple pain management techniques can help to relieve an individual’s symptoms, but in more severe cases a surgical procedure may be necessary.

Typical pain management practices to try for degenerative disc disease include:

  • Cold treatments to reduce inflammation
  • Heat therapy to soothe muscle spasms and tension
  • Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, or aspirin
  • Use of a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit
  • Manual manipulation such as chiropractic care
  • Steroid Injections

Because this condition worsens over time, minor pain management treatments will usually only provide temporary relief. When the chronic pain caused by degenerative disc disease becomes unbearable for the patient to endure, the next step is to treat the pain using surgical methods such as a: