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How to tell if your symptoms are caused by a degenerative spine

The symptoms of a degenerative spine are often consistent across a wide range of spinal conditions, including bulging and herniated discs, spinal stenosis, bone spurs and osteoarthritis. Another common thread is that all of these conditions can be caused by — and further contribute to — a gradual loss of spinal structure and function over time.

Even though many degenerative spine conditions can produce the same or similar symptoms, their treatment approaches can vary widely, ranging from physical therapy and medications to injections and surgery. For this reason, it’s important to bring any symptoms to the attention of a physician who can identify the underlying cause and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. This is also the best way to tell if your discomfort is caused by a degenerative spine.

Symptoms of spinal degeneration

The most common degenerative spine symptoms are:

  • Neck or back pain, which can be sharp and sudden or dull and chronic, and can occur with movement or while at rest
  • Numbness, tingling and burning sensations that travel from the neck or back down an arm or leg
  • Muscle weakness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Walking difficulties

Spinal degeneration can also cause bladder or bowel dysfunction. These are signs of a rare but serious neurological condition known as cauda equina syndrome, which requires emergency medical attention to prevent permanent nerve damage.

Treatment options for a degenerative spine

The optimal treatment approach for degenerative spine symptoms will depend on the type and severity of the underlying condition. With that said, many patients benefit significantly from conservative treatment, such as exercise to increase the flexibility and strength of the muscles that support the spine, supplemented by over-the-counter pain relievers taken as needed to improve comfort. Oftentimes, this type of nonsurgical approach proves to be effective enough to eliminate surgery from consideration altogether.

While many people would prefer to avoid surgery if at all possible, a surgical procedure may be a good option for a patient who is unable to achieve meaningful relief from degenerative spine symptoms with conservative treatment. In these situations, the surgeons at USA Spine Care can perform minimally invasive outpatient procedures that are safer and effective alternatives to traditional open spine procedures.^

If you need help in managing severe degenerative spine symptoms, contact USA Spine Care to request a no-cost MRI review.* Our caring team can explain your options and help you determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery, which is often clinically appropriate and provides many advantages versus open neck or back surgery.^

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