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Degenerative disc disease in the neck — overview and treatments

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) in the neck is relatively common because the cervical (upper) region of the spine is highly flexible and must also support the weight of the head. The stress of weight and movement can accelerate the natural degeneration of spinal anatomy and lead to the development of degenerative disc disease. While DDD is not necessarily symptomatic itself, it can cause chronic neck pain and other symptoms when nerve compression occurs within the cervical spine.

Disc degeneration in the neck

The vertebrae in the cervical spine are separated and cushioned by thick, spongy discs that act like miniature shock absorbers for the neck. Each disc is composed of a durable outer layer and gel-like inner disc material, which work together to give each disc its strength and flexibility. Over the years, age-related loss of water and protein content that make discs dry and brittle cause degenerative disc disease in the neck to occur. This makes the discs, especially in the neck and lower back, less able to absorb the stress placed on the spine and can lead to conditions like bulging, herniated and collapsed discs, among others.

In addition to the natural aging process, other factors that contribute to the deterioration of the cervical spine include:

  • Practicing poor posture
  • Participating in high-impact sports and other physically demanding activities
  • Being in a line of work that requires frequent bending, twisting or lifting
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use
  • Sustaining a traumatic vertebral injury

Treatment options

For patients who have degenerative disc disease in their neck, treatment is generally first attempted with a series of conservative techniques. The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the application of heat or ice, physical therapy, stretching techniques and rest are all commonly suggested by doctors at the outset of treatment. Some patients also turn to alternative treatments, such as chiropractic therapy and deep tissue massage, for relief. It is recommended to always consult with your doctor when exploring any new type of treatment.

In the event that several weeks or months of treatment fail to provide you with the pain relief you require, contact USA Spine Care before consenting to a highly invasive traditional open neck surgery. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is performed on an outpatient basis and offers our patients less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional procedures.

If you’d like to learn more, reach out to our caring and dedicated team for a no-cost MRI review* that can help determine if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.

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