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What types of pain indicate degenerative disc disease?

If you’re dealing with chronic neck or back pain, it can hard to determine if degenerative disc disease (DDD) or another similar issue is the cause. DDD is very common, but so are other conditions such as osteoarthritis. The best way to get a clear and accurate answer is to discuss your symptoms with an orthopedic physician and undergo diagnostic testing. This can help you know for certain what is causing your discomfort — and how you can go about treating it.

The symptoms of DDD

Degenerative disc disease can produce a number of symptoms. The most common include:

  • Pain in one specific part of the neck or back where a damaged disc has compressed a nerve or a nerve root
  • Pain that radiates along the path of an affected nerve, traveling down one arm or leg
  • Tingling and/or muscle weakness in an upper or lower extremity, depending on the level of the spine affected (cervical DDD primarily causes symptoms in the neck, while lumbar DDD typically causes symptoms in the lower back)

Unlike pain that is caused by a minor muscle strain in the neck or back, which usually goes away on its own after a few days, the pain caused by degenerative disc disease tends to persist until treated.

Treating disc degeneration

Many people find that their symptoms respond well to conservative therapies, such as medication and physical therapy. Regular exercise and lifestyle changes also have the potential to help — as do alternative therapies such as massage and yoga.

Sometimes, surgery might be recommended to address the degeneration itself (conservative and alternative therapies only help alleviate painful symptoms). However, this is the exception rather than the rule. Surgery is usually recommended only if various nonsurgical therapies do not produce the desired results.

At USA Spine Care, we perform minimally invasive degenerative disc disease surgery for people who have not found an effective nonsurgical solution for their symptoms. Thanks to our no-cost MRI review, we can help determine if you are a candidate for our outpatient procedures, which offer a number of advantages compared to traditional open spine operations.^ To learn more, contact us today.

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