Degenerative disc disease is a term describing the changes in the spinal discs as we age. The spinal discs themselves are soft, compressible discs that separate the vertebrae (interlocking bones) of the spine. They act as the spine’s shock absorbers, allowing it to bend, flex and twist as we move around. Any part of the spine is susceptible to developing degenerative disc disease. It does, however, commonly develop within the discs of the lower back (lumbar region) and the neck (cervical region).
The Effects of Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease causes the spinal discs to experience significant changes, most often changes that degenerate their structure. The changes within the spinal discs often result in neck and back pain. They also cause conditions like:
- Herniated Discs – an abnormal bulge or break of a spinal disc.
- Spinal Stenosis – the constriction of the spinal canal, also known as the open space in the spine holding the spinal cord.
- Osteoarthritis – the degradation of the cartilage protecting and cushioning the joints.
These conditions are known for how they place pressure on the nerves and the spinal cord, resulting in pain and degraded nerve function.
The Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
Several causes of degenerative disc disease exist. For many of our Austin degenerative disc disease patients, the natural aging process is a factor. The following age-related problems can cause this condition to arise.
- Loss of fluid in the spinal discs. This reduces the discs’ natural ability as shock absorbers, making them less flexible and thinner.
- Tiny cracks or tears in the discs’ outer layers (the annulus or capsules). This causes the discs’ jelly-like nucleus to slip out through the tears or cracks, causing the disc to bulge, break or shatter.
Sudden injuries, such as falls or back/neck injuries may also cause the spinal discs to degenerate faster.
Treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is treated in several ways. Common treatment methods involve using over-the-counter medication, prescription medications and hot/cold compresses to relieve pain. If oral medications do not help, spinal injections may be employed to deliver a stronger medication directly to the source of pain. Spinal injections are a minimally invasive treatment option that offer temporary but effective pain relief.
- Epidural steroid injections (ESIs) are frequently utilized in degenerative disc disease treatment. This treatment involves the injection of a steroid medication into the space between the spinal cord. ESIs work by diminishing inflammation and flushing out particles that cause pain and swelling.
- Facet joint injections are useful if your facet joints are causing pain. This treatment involves the injection of an anti-inflammatory steroid into the facet joints of the vertebrae which numbs the joint and can provide pain relief.
Radiofrequency Ablation / Rhizotomy is another alternative treatment option that is available to our Austin degenerative disc disease patients. It involves using heat generated by radio waves to damage certain nerves, stifling their ability to carry pain signals throughout the body. The procedure delivers radio waves to the targeted nerves via needles inserted through the skin of the spine.
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment in Austin
At the Diagnostic Pain Center in Austin, we see patients with a variety of spinal issues. One of the more common disorders that we encounter among our adult patients is degenerative disc disease. It is a condition that Dr. Robert S. Marks, Dr. Sauman A. Rafii, Dr. Ivan N. Chew and our professional team is experienced with diagnosing and successfully treating. Call us today at (512) 981-7246 for more information on degenerative disc disease treatment in Austin, or to schedule a visit to our clinic. You may also request an appointment online.