Degenerative disc disease affects everyone to some extent as they get older. If it progresses to cause a pinched nerve, you’ll experience pain and neurologic symptoms that may radiate down your legs. As a specialist in degenerative disc disease, Robert J. Henderson, MD, at Dallas Spine Care, recommends individualized treatment, including surgery that relieves your pain and stabilizes your spine. If you need help with back pain, or you’d like a second opinion before scheduling disc replacement, call the office in Dallas or book an appointment online.
Over years of using your spine, the movement and stress of supporting your body weight lead to disc degeneration.
At first, the discs start to dehydrate, which is a problem considering they’re 80% water. As discs lose water, they thin out and shrink, making them unable to do their job of cushioning the vertebrae and absorbing shock.
A second problem occurs as the disc’s outer covering starts to wear out and sustain damage. A weak outer cover combined with dehydration eventually makes the disc collapse.
As the discs degenerate, problems can develop, such as spinal instability, bone spurs, and pinched nerves. These conditions lead to lower back or neck pain, depending on where the disc degeneration occurs.
Your pain may vary from aching to feeling sharp and severe. You could have continuous pain, or you may enjoy pain-free periods with sudden flare-ups of disabling pain.
Spinal instability often causes painful muscle spasms. A pinched nerve also leads to neurologic symptoms such as pain, tingling, and numbness that travels along the nerve and radiates down your arm or leg.
The pain caused by degenerative disc disease is generally worse when you’re sitting or engaged in activities that require bending or twisting. Lying down tends to relieve the pain.
You can’t reverse degenerative disc disease, but you may be able to manage the pain with good posture, physical therapy, and medications to relieve the pain and inflammation. If you’re overweight, losing weight may help, too.
When your pain doesn’t respond to conservative measures, Dr. Henderson may inject steroids and a local anesthetic near the nerves affected by the degenerated disc.
Dr. Henderson recommends surgery when your pain is severe enough to interfere with daily activities or if you develop a disc herniation or spinal instability.
In most cases, he performs an interbody fusion, first removing the damaged disc, then fusing the two vertebrae so they grow together to form one bone. This type of fusion alleviates your pain and strengthens your spine.
Dr. Henderson doesn’t perform artificial disc replacement for degenerative disc disease. If you’re considering having a lumbar disc replacement, however, he welcomes you to come in for a consultation about your condition before undergoing surgery.
Getting early treatment can help slow down the rate of disc degeneration. Call Dallas Spine Care or schedule an appointment online to learn about preventive steps you can take and your treatment options.