Degenerative disc disease is not really a disease. It is actually a condition in which wear and tear on the spinal discs, most often the result of age, lose their ability to act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae of the spine. As these spinal discs deteriorate, cracks and tears can occur. Sometimes, these cracks cause the disc’s internal fluid to leak out. When this happens, the result is known as a herniated disc. When a disc deteriorates and becomes herniated, the space between the vertebrae becomes compressed.
As a disc increasingly becomes unable to provide the necessary support and stress absorption, other parts of the spine are taxed, which can lead to inflammation, fatigue, muscle spasms, pain and nerve dysfunction. Pain varies widely among individuals who have degenerative disc disease. It can also range dramatically, as well as, come and go within an individual. A damaged disc in the neck can cause pain that not only affects the neck, but also the shoulder and arm. Similarly, an affected disc in the lower back can cause pain in the back, buttock, and/or leg.
Diagnosis begins with a physical exam. The patient’s range of motion in the neck and lower back is evaluated, reflexes and strength of the muscles are also examined. That may be followed up with imaging tests such as a CT scan or an MRI and/or nerve function tests and a nerve conduction study.
Treatment is always customized. Our physicians believe the most effective plan is one in which the patient is a partner in the process. We are equipped and experience to offer the widest array of approaches available, and often utilize a multidisciplinary approach which may include: