herniated disc treatmentOften, patients suffering from Degenerative Disc Disorder do not show symptoms. When symptoms are present, however, chronic low back pain sometimes radiates to the hips, or there is an aching pain in the buttocks or thighs while walking. Similar pain may be felt or may increase while sitting, bending, lifting, and twisting. The symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease can vary widely depending on the location and severity of the condition. In general the degenerated disc itself causes little to no pain. If it does cause symptoms it often creates a stiffness around the affected joints or a deep ache that is often increased with movement of the joint. However, as the joint “warms up” the pain often decreases with this same body movement.

Although the degenerated disc often causes only mild symptoms, Degenerative Disc Disease can still cause severe pain and disability in other ways. The most serious problem related to Degenerative Disc Disease is direct nerve compression. This occurs when the spinal disc becomes thinner as part of the degenerative process. This thinning, also called Disc Height Reduction, causes the space between the bones to narrow. This narrowing also makes the hole between the nerves, the foramen, smaller, as well. Neural Foraminal Narrowing causes direct bone-on-nerve compression which can create such severe and debilitating symptoms as sharp pain, burning, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. Over time this degenerative process can compromise the integrity of the nerve to the point that the organs controlled by these nerves can become diseased. Therefore, the most disconcerting problems associated Degenerative Disc Disease are not due to the disc itself, but how the disc degeneration causes the nerves to become injured as a result.

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

  • Physical therapy for degenerative disk disease is focused on teaching you how to manage your back pain. This may involve posture training, exercise, ice packs, heating, electrical stimulation, relaxation, and other forms of physical therapy.
  • Steroid injections around the nerves exiting the spinal cord may be able to provide some pain relief.
  • Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy, or IDET, involves inserting a small catheter with a heated tip into the disk. The heat causes shrinkage of the disk and deadens the disk's nerve endings. This is not yet a generally accepted method of treatment.
  • Surgery may be required in some cases of degenerative disk disease. Surgery may involve removing the degenerated disk and/or fusing two of the vertebra together.

Prevention

  • Take the following steps to help protect your spine:
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Follow your doctor's recommendations for treating osteoporosis if you have it.