The highly skilled, well-trained spinal surgeons at Marina del Rey Hospital can evaluate patients with degenerative disc disease and advise an individualized treatment plan. There are several conservative and surgical treatment approaches for spinal disc problems. Our physicians will work with you to decide on the appropriate treatment plan.
Degenerative disc disease (DDD), commonly referred to as spondylosis, refers to intervertebral disc damage that occurs as a result of natural degenerative changes in the spine. Genetic factors and lifestyle directly affect the deterioration of the spine. DDD is most common in adults above the age of 50. DDD can occur at any segment of the spine, but it's most common in the lumbar spine (lower back region) and the cervical spine (neck region), due to the fact that both areas do the most weight bearing and movement. Over time, intervertebral discs lose water and proteins, becoming weak. Continual pressure on the soft spinal discs can also lead to increased wear and tear. DDD can cause back and neck pain. DDD can lead to the development of other medical conditions, such as osteoarthritis of the disc cartilage, herniated disc, and spinal stenosis. All of these conditions exert pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots.
There are two major types of surgery used to treat degenerative disc disease. They are:
The types of spinal decompression surgery include:
Posterior Approach: This decompression procedure is performed from the back of the spine. Posterior approach surgeries include:
Anterior Approach: With certain conditions, such as a herniated disc, the decompression procedure will be performed from the front of the spine. Anterior approach surgeries include:
Stabilization Surgery: This procedure is recommended when the spine becomes unstable and shows abnormal movements due to the removal of a part or all of the spinal disc. In these cases, a surgeon will stabilize the spine through spinal fusion, which involves the use of a bone graft or a substance that stimulates bone growth. Tools, such as wires, screws, rods, and plates may also be used to enhance the patient's spinal stability. A spinal fusion procedure restricts movement in between the vertebrae and will keep the spine stable for a prolonged period of time.
Degenerative disc disease is subdivided into three types based on the segment of the spine that is affected.
Degenerative disc disease is normally asymptomatic and mild conditions often go unnoticed. Symptoms, such as pain, may develop only if a fragment of the deteriorated disc impinges on a nerve root. Symptoms of DDD commonly occur in the back or neck, and may include:
To diagnose DDD, a doctor will perform a careful physical examination and ask questions about a patient's symptoms and routine habits. Imaging tests, such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, may be used to confirm a suspected diagnosis, or in cases of trauma. X-rays can show reduced intervertebral space, the presence of bone spurs, and the hypertrophy of facets. MRI scans use magnetic and radio waves to produce images that reveal layers of the spine, as well as nerves, ligaments, and other soft tissue. MRIs can show spinal stenosis (narrowing of spinal canal), herniated discs, and loss of water content in the spinal discs.
There are several risk factors that contribute to the development of DDD. Aging is one of the major factors that cause your spinal discs to degenerate. Others include:
Degenerative disc disease is a condition that often occurs because of age-related changes in the spinal discs, such as water loss and small cracks or tears in the outer shell of the disc. Excessive body weight may also trigger the development of DDD. A sudden trauma to the spine, such as one resulting from a fall, may also initiate the degenerative process. Bony overgrowths or osteophytes may form around the disc as a response to the decreased intervertebral space. These bony growths may exert pressure on the spinal nerves, causing pain and nerve malfunction.
Alternative medicine treatments can help alleviate pain and other symptoms caused by pinched nerves. Most patients have found alternative treatment approaches beneficial in relieving the symptoms of DDD, despite the fact that these treatments have not been scientifically proven. These therapies include:
There are measures you can take to prevent the development of DDD and to maintain your spinal health. They include:
Are you suffering from lower back pain? The specially trained spinal surgeons at Marina del Rey Hospital can answer any questions, and provide information and guidance related to degenerative disc disease treatment.
Robert Watkins III, M.D.See Profile »
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