Degenerative disc disease is a common cause of back pain. As the body ages, the discs that separate the vertebrae lose some of their normal water content and gradually become more brittle. Additionally, as the effects of day-to-day wear and tear add up over time, the discs can become more prone to damage. As the discs break down and shrink, the amount of space between each pair of vertebrae can become reduced, increasing the chance of nerve or nerve root compression. Along with potentially painful inflammation within the discs themselves, this can lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms.
Treating degenerative disc disease with conservative measures
Many people are able to manage the symptoms of disc degeneration with conservative (nonsurgical) treatment options. These include:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Pain relievers and muscle relaxants
- Exercise and physical therapy
- Activity modification
- Hot/cold therapy
Some people with degenerative disc disease also find that healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcoholic beverages and staying active, can help alleviate their back pain. While taking things easy for a few days can be an option if the pain is particularly intense, it’s not necessarily the best strategy for the long term. Instead, spending just a few minutes each day participating in low-impact activities, such as walking and swimming, may lead to a significant reduction in pain.
Alternative therapies may also provide short-term symptom relief. Yoga, acupuncture, therapeutic massage and other similar options have helped many individuals manage their neck or back pain. However, it’s important to discuss any treatment options with a physician beforehand to ensure that they are being used safely and to their fullest potential.
While surgery is not always necessary, there may be a variety of surgical options for an individual whose symptoms do not respond to conservative and alternative treatments. Traditional surgery, for instance, may provide significant pain relief, although it typically involves a long recovery process.
Minimally invasive surgery may also be an option. At USA Spine Care, we perform degenerative disc disease surgery using advanced, muscle-sparing techniques. Our procedures are associated with shorter recovery times and lower complication rates than conventional surgery and, as a result, are often the clinically appropriate first choice.^ To learn more about degenerative disc disease surgery at USA Spine Care, contact us today.
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