Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment in New Jersey
he spinal column is comprised of 33 vertebral bones connected via joints that allow movement, twisting motions, and the ability to bend in all directions. The spinal column also has cartilaginous cushions called spinal discs, upon which the vertebrae rest. These discs contribute to the range of motion, protection of the spinal cord, and act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae for comfort and mobility. Over time, each disc will age, manifesting in a loss of density and shape. Aging discs, called degenerative disc disease, is associated with arthritis in the spine called spondylosis or degenerative spine disease. When either of these arthritic changes occur, it can lead to painful neck or back symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, a painless MRI of the affected area would be necessary.
Learn more about degenerative disc disease, its symptoms, how it is treated. Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics is New Jersey’s most comprehensive medical center for spine and neurological care. Contact the CNSO trusted, knowledgeable, and experienced medical staff.
What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease happens to most people and begins in the third decade of life. The rate of deterioration can be increased by a previous sports injury or a motor vehicle accident. When the discs are injured or wear down, they may tear, herniate, bulge, causing the extra cushioning the discs provide to be reduced or eliminated. Without this added layer of protection, the vertebral bones will press directly against each other causing painful symptoms.
The most common sign of degenerative disc disease is neck and back pain. This pain can radiate down the arms or legs depending on the level of the degenerated disc. Discomfort may suddenly appear and then subside or it may linger for a long time. Degenerative disc disease can also cause numbness, weakness, and tingling in the arms, hands, or legs called radiculopathy by a portion of the disc pressing against a nerve or the spinal cord. The symptoms will usually worsen after performing strenuous activities like bending, twisting, or lifting.
While some individuals may not have back pain nor even know they have degenerative disc disease, others experience significant symptoms that are debilitating. Depending on whether the nerves are being affected, permanent damage to the nerves may occur. Without treatment for symptomatic degenerative disc disease, it may or may not continue to worsen over time.
Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
Patient may lose up to an inch in height from spinal discs thinning out over time. Again, this is a normal part of the aging process. Not all patients diagnosed with degenerative disc disease will experience symptoms and the image findings are incidental. If a patient, however, has pain in the neck or lower back, that may or may not radiate down the arms or legs, this could indicate that their spinal discs are altered in shape too much, torn, or cracked.
Many risk factors can cause degenerative disc disease to occur, including:
- Family history
- Injuries such as falling or high force impact
- Physical labor
Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease
When patients arrive at their appointment, CNSO physicians will inquire about their medical history and lifestyle. They will ask questions related to their symptoms in order to form a better understanding of what the patient is experiencing. The CNSO physicians will then evaluate the patient’s condition further by a painless neurological and musculoskeletal examination to determine the location and extent of the dysfunctional. During this exam, physicians will analyze aspects such as:
- Nerve conduction function
- Types and levels of sensation in the affected areas
- Strength in arms, hands, or legs
Based on the history, dates of any previous testing, and physical examination, the CNSO physicians may schedule imaging tests such as x-rays, CTs, or MRIs, that will allow them to view and assess the spine in a two-dimensional image. They will then correlate the patient’s current symptoms with any existing structural abnormalities. Throughout the process, the patient will be made comfortable and at ease with their care. Once a thorough diagnosis is made, a customized treatment plan to resolve the spine condition will be determined and thoroughly discussed with the patient.
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment
Treatment for degenerative disc disease most commonly consists of non-invasive methods to reduce symptoms. If a patient is experiencing new mild discomfort and stiffness, isolated to only the back, the CNSO physician will suggest applying heat to the affected area as most isolated back pain is due to a pulled muscle. Additionally, it can also be beneficial to ensure plenty of rest to speed the healing process. Aside from at-home treatment methods, in the case of muscle spam and degenerative disc disease, physicians may also suggest physical therapy or medications that can improve symptoms and restore functions that patients may have lost. If the symptoms are not resolved after 6 weeks of physical therapy, depending on the symptoms, imaging and additional non-invasive techniques CNSO pain management doctors may use include are:
- Epidural or transforaminal Steroid injections
- Medial branch block and RFA
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Rehabilitation medicine
Evidence-based medical studies indicate a patient for surgery only with severe pathology as per an MRI or after they have failed conservative, non-invasive treatment, and only if the MRI imaging shows a structural abnormality that corresponds to the areas of discomfort. Some procedures that treat degenerative disc disorder include:
- Discectomy: Surgeons remove a portion of the degenerated disc disease that is causing painful symptoms. The surgery will remove the pathological pressure off the affected nerve root or spinal cord and the patient will wake up from surgery will immediate relief. Surgeons can perform a discectomy using minimally invasive techniques or robotic spine surgery.
- Disc Replacement or Disc Arthroplasty: Reserved for a severely degenerated disc in the neck, this surgery will remove the diseased disc and replace it with a fully functioning new synthetic disc thereby preserving range of motion in the neck.
- Laminectomy: A common necessary type of back surgery for treating degenerative disc disorders along with existing spondylosis or arthritic bone disease of the spine. Degenerated discs and the pressure they cause on the spinal cord or nerves can be relieved by accessing the disc through the small lamina bone which is a part of the vertebral bone. A laminectomy may be combined with a partial or total discectomy. This surgery will enable the patient to regain strength and movement which will improve their quality of life. CNSO surgeons will used minimally invasive techniques to perform a laminectomy that will drastically reduce scarring and speed up recovery.
- Spinal fusion: This surgical procedure adds to the stabilization and strengthen of the spine after removing a significant amount of degenerative bone disease from one or more vertebrae and when significant degenerative disc disease has to be removed from one or more of the disc spaces. Surgeons will trim or remove the affected parts, replacing them with a synthetic material to provide structural support of the spine. The patient will experience relief from painful symptoms and the ability to function again. Spine fusion surgery essentially rebuilds damaged vertebral bone and discs allowing the patient to return to their previous daily lifestyle including comfortable routine activities.
Individuals with debilitating neck or back pain associated with degenerative disc disease should seek treatment right away. Waiting can lead to further structural changes in the spine such as:
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics
Patients can prevent or slow down degenerative disc disease by maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking, and routine daily exercise. If symptoms of neck or back pain begin to occur, see a spine specialist in order to catch the early signs of severe degenerative disc disease. The earlier detected, the greater the likelihood to resolve symptoms and halt progress with conservative, non-surgical care.
At Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics, the team of highly trained spine specialists, pain management doctors, neurosurgeons, and spine surgeons are here to assure patients they can improve their quality of life. With multiple office locations throughout Northern New Jersey and using hospitals with state-of-art technology, patients can trust Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics with their medical care. To learn more about degenerative disc disease treatment in NJ, contact us today to schedule an appointment.
In the instance of Lumbar DDD, lower back pain can flare up because of one or two contributing causes: inflammation or abnormal micromotion instability.