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Degenerative disc disease diagnosis — what are the treatment options?

A degenerative disc disease diagnosis doesn’t have to mean a life of pain and discomfort. Many patients are able to get back to regular, comfortable activity by following the conservative treatment recommendations of their doctor.

While degenerative disc disease may have a somewhat alarming name, it is simply a description of age-related wear of the spinal discs that everyone is subject to. With age, these discs can dry out and become less able to absorb the pressure of weight and movement which can cause them to lose their shape. Degenerative disc disease is usually diagnosed when a damaged disc begins to cause symptoms related to compression of a spinal nerve.

While you should work closely with your doctor to develop a treatment plan, you can also educate yourself about the full range of treatment options available. The following information can help you become more involved with your treatment and better understand the next steps after receiving a degenerative disc disease diagnosis.

Conservative treatments

After diagnosing degenerative disc disease, most physicians will begin treatment with a plan that often involves the following conservative options:

  • The use of medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), prescription pain relievers or muscle relaxants
  • The application of ice packs or a heating pad
  • Lifestyle changes, which may include improving your diet, engaging in regular doctor-approved exercises, ceasing tobacco use and moderating alcohol consumption
  • Seeing a physical therapist for techniques to strengthen supporting muscles, correct posture and restore lost mobility

When to consider surgery

Surgery may be recommended if symptoms have not improved after completing a full course of these and other conservative methods. Doctors and patients both view surgery as a last-resort treatment because of the large incision, hospitalization and long, often painful, recovery time that follows traditional open neck or back procedures.

The board-certified surgeons at USA Spine Care perform minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. Our procedures are performed using a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques, which allow them to be performed on an outpatient basis.

To learn more, contact our team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a potential candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery at USA Spine Care.

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