Despite the name, degenerative disc disease is not really a disease. It refers to the normal process of change that occurs in our spinal discs as we age. Spinal discs are the soft pads that fill the space between vertebrae in the back. They work to absorb shock and enable flexibility in the spine. But as we age, these pads begin to lose their natural fluid. When this happens, the discs grow smaller, providing less cushioning between vertebrae, and become more susceptible to bulges and tears. While degenerative disc disease can happen anywhere in the back, it is most common in the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions.
Dr. Hyun Bae is a renowned Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon and expert in helping his patients manage degenerative disc disease at La Peer’s Disc Replacement Center of Excellence. Call today at (888) 309-2848 to set up your consultation.
Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms
While the affects of degenerative disc disease vary from person to person, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Pain that is worse when sitting
- Numbness and tingling in the arms and legs
- Pain that worsens when lifting, bending, or twisting
- Weakness in the leg muscles
- Pain that affects the lower back, buttocks, thighs, or neck
The two most common causes of degenerative disc disease are age-related wear and injury or trauma to the spine.
Cervical Disc Disease
Cervical disc disease refers to degeneration of the spinal discs in the cervical, or neck, region. The most common symptom of this condition is neck pain. This neck pain tends to be most prevalent when the patient is upright or moving the head. Because the cervical nerve roots supply the arms and hands, these areas may also be affected with burning, tingling, numbness, and pain. Headaches are another common complaint among patients with cervical disc disease.
Lumbar Disc Disease
Lumbar disc disease refers to the degeneration of the spinal discs in the lumbar, or lower back, region. The most common symptoms are back pain, spasms of the back muscles, sciatica (pain that travels down the leg), weakness in the legs, numbness in legs or feet, decreased knee or ankle reflexes, and changes in bowel or bladder function.
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment
Often, degenerative disc disease can be treated with non-surgical methods. These include physical therapy, heat, ice, and medication to manage the pain. In more serious cases, surgery may be necessary. There are a variety of surgeries that can be done to treat degenerative disc disease. The most common of these fit into two categories. One type involves using a bone graft to fuse the vertebrae and stop movement in the area of pain. The other involves removing the disc or bone material that is causing the pain. In this case, an artificial disc may be implanted to replace the disc that has been removed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the most common risk factors for degenerative disc disease?
A: The largest risk factor is age. Degenerative disc disease is most common in those who are 35 and older. However, certain jobs that require a lot lifting, twisting, and bending, may also increase the risk.
Q: When should I consider surgery for degenerative disc disease?
A: The first course of treatment is a combination of physical therapy and medication. However, if your condition does not respond to treatment within three months, then it is appropriate to talk to your doctor about surgery.
Q: Why am I experiencing pain in my legs or arms when the problem is in my back?
A: Because the nerves in the spine supply those in the legs, patients with degenerative disc disease do often experience pains in other parts of the their bodies.
Q: What kinds of medications are commonly prescribed for degenerative disc disease?
A: A variety of medications are used to treat degenerative disc disease including aspirin, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), narcotics, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and steroid injections.
Contact a Los Angeles Degenerative Disc Disease Expert
It is common to experience back pain as we age. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer and live with pain. Dr. Bae is skilled at helping his patients manage and overcome their neck and back pain caused by degenerative disc disease. Call La Peer’s Disc Replacement Center at (888) 309-2848 to schedule an appointment today.
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