Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment in Southern California

Degenerative disc disease typically results from the natural aging process. It can also be caused by injury or trauma. The fluid in the disc give its spongy quality and contributes to its shock-absorbing abilities. The amount of water in the disc decreases and the collagens and proteins undergo chemical changes as we age, becoming stiff or rigid and susceptible or prone to tearing. This also causes the discs to flatten and reduce the gap between the vertebrae.

Inflammatory pain associated with degenerative disc disease is caused by the release of chemicals in the nucleus that irritate nerve roots. Mechanical pain associated with degenerative disc disease is due to the physical pressure on the nerve root as a result of herniation or disc space compression. Both inflammatory and mechanical pain also can cause muscle spasms and impaired mobility.

If a tear occurs in the outer ring of the disc, the soft inner nucleus can seep out and cause the disc to bulge or herniate, which can create pressure on the nerve root and cause pain at the site of the nerve root affected. This pain canradiate along the pathway of the affected nerve root.

If a herniated disc occurs in the neck, pain may radiate to the back of the head, upper back, shoulders, and arms. Herniation in the lower back can cause pain in the buttocks, legs and feet.

Collapse of the disc may create a condition called spinal stenosis, which is narrowing of the space on the spinal cord and nerves. Pressure from spinal stenosis can cause pain and may also trigger a reaction in the spine that leads to the development of bone spurs (bone protrusions) that further decrease the amount of available space.

The primary symptom of degenerative disc disease is pain, which often worsens during certain types of activity, such as sitting, standing, bending, lifting, twisting. Lying down can provide the best relief, as this takes all pressure off the spine. Most patients with degenerative disc disease experience chronic neck or lower back pain with intermittent episodes of acute pain that can last from a few days to a few months.
The clinical diagnosis for herniated disc is usually arrived at through a combination of the patient’s medical history and a physical exam. Imaging studies (MRI, CT-myelogram) are used to confirm the diagnosis and will typically show the impingement on the nerve root.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – MRI shows the soft tissues of the body and gives clearer picture of the discs, nerves and soft tissues in the lower back.
  • Computerized Tomography (CT Scan)with Myelogram- Combined CT scan and myleography produces image that clearly show both the bone structures of the spine and the nerve structures
ONE® Brain & Spine Center®, it is recommended that a course of non-surgical treatment should be conducted first. Initial treatment may include pain and anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids or non-steroidal pain medication like ibuprofen and physical therapy. Steroids may be prescribed either orally or injected epidurally (into the space above the dura, which is the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord). If the pain is accompanied by spasm, you may be prescribed with muscle relaxants. If non-surgical treatment does not alleviate the pain, minimally invasive decompressive surgery may be recommended.

Non-Surgical Treatments

  • Pain and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Epidural steroid injection
  • Physical therapy

Minimally Invasive Surgical Treatments

  • Posterior Cervical and Lumbar Microdiscectomy (Microdecompression)- Microdiscectomy, also known as microdecompression, is one of the most commonly performed minimally invasive spine procedures. Beneficial for those with damaged discs at either the cervical or lumbar level, microdiscectomy effectively removes the pressure off the spinal nerves, relieving chronic neck and back pain without the recovery and rehabilitation time required with traditional, open discectomy spine surgery. Read more about Microdecompression.
  • Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)- Spinal fusion is a procedure that “welds” two vertebrae of the spine together to create one solid bone and relieve chronic pain. The anterior approach for the lumbar fusion is through the front of the body– the abdomen– and is considered to be far more ideal than the traditional posterior approach, or through the back. Read more about ALIF.
  • Posterior Cervical and Lumbar Microdiscectomy (Microdecompression) – Microdiscectomy, also known as microdecompression, is one of the most commonly performed minimally invasive spine procedures. Beneficial for those with damaged discs at either the cervical or lumbar level, microdiscectomy effectively removes the pressure off the spinal nerves, relieving chronic neck and back pain without the recovery and rehabilitation time required with traditional, open discectomy spine surgery. Read more about Microdecompression.
  • Cervical and Lumbar Spine Arthroplasty – Spine arthroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that involves the placement of an artificial disc after the removal of a damaged disc. Read more about Cervical and Lumbar Spine Arthroplasty.

Offering the latest in innovative, minimally invasive spine procedures and orthopedic care in Southern California, the team at ONE® Brain & Spine Center® is focused on helping our patients live the best life possible while making informed decisions about their healthcare. Call (949) 383-4190 or Contact Us today for an appointment.