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Degenerative Disc Disease

Although back pain can have various origins, acute and persistent pain that is not relieved while seated normally indicates degenerative disc disease. It is particularly common in the lumbar spine (lower back). Spinal discs serve as buffers between adjacent vertebrae in the backbone, absorbing shocks. However, wear and tear or injury can cause them to shrink or rupture, applying pressure to the spine and pinching nearby nerve roots. As a result, this can lead to intense pain and additional related symptoms. For the best treatment for degenerative disc disease pain, reach out to Pro Spine & Pain, renowned pain specialists with five convenient locations in Wisconsin.

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative Disc Disease

Linked to aging, degenerative disc disease is a painful condition characterized by the deterioration of intervertebral discs in the spine. These discs, situated between the vertebrae, serve as shock absorbers as the bones of your spine move. As the discs degrade with age, their ability to provide a cushion diminishes, leading to discomfort during movement.

Back pain can significantly impact daily life, impeding mobility and the ability to perform normal daily activities. For this reason, it is a common cause of disability. Seeking assistance from a board-certified specialist is crucial for diagnosis through examinations and imaging tests. Timely treatment for degenerative disc disease improves recovery times and enhances the prospects of complete recovery. The pain specialists at Pro Spine & Pain are highly skilled in providing non-surgical relief for a wide range of spinal conditions, including degenerative disc disease treatments.

How Does Degenerative Disc Disease Develop?

Degenerative disc disease quietly progresses over time, often unnoticed until it becomes problematic. The spine is susceptible to wear and tear, with the speed of disc deterioration influenced by how much strain is placed on it.

Causes of degenerative disc disease include:

  • Spinal Strain and Stress: Activities like improper lifting, certain sports, and repetitive motions at work strain the back, contributing to disc degeneration. These movements create tiny tears in the vertebral discs.
  • Spinal Injuries: Injuries from accidents or injuries caused by sports can affect discs, with the damage often worsening over time.
  • Disc Dehydration: Discs lose water as you age, becoming less effective at absorbing shock. Eventually, they reach a point where they cause pain with movement.

When discs are damaged, the inner jelly-like core, known as the nucleus pulposus, can leak, irritating nearby nerves and causing pain. At Pro Spine & Pain, our pain specialists utilize advanced diagnostic equipment to identify spinal issues accurately, enabling them to tailor a personalized treatment plan for you.

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

Your normal, day-to-day life can be disrupted by various symptoms of degenerative disc disease. Typically appearing between the ages of 30 and 40, it’s crucial to identify common signs early for prompt treatment.

Look out for symptoms such as:

    Back Pain: Noticeable discomfort exacerbated by sitting, bending, lifting, or twisting, especially in the lumbar spine where degenerative disc disease commonly occurs.

    Additional indicators of lower back pain include:

  • Sudden onset of pain that then suddenly stops
  • Aggravation with bending, twisting, or lifting
  • Pain radiating to legs, buttocks, arms, or hands
  • Varied intensity from mild to severe
  • Progressive worsening of pain over time
  • Numbness: Affecting other body parts due to a bulging or herniated disc, leading to sensations of numbness or tingling in the legs.
  • Radiating Pain: Sometimes extending to the legs and buttocks from the spine, alleviated by changes in position or lying down.
  • Weakness: This symptom of disc degeneration can spread to the legs.
  • Muscle Spasms: Instability in the spine causing neck or lower back muscles to spasm due to overexertion.

Degeneration of intervertebral discs results in debilitating pain and weakness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seeking medical attention is crucial. Visit a WI pain center like Pro Spine & Pain for evaluation and effective treatment. Early diagnosis prevents further disc deterioration, with advanced procedures, including referral for surgery for degenerative disc disease, available for pain relief.

Risk Factors for Degenerative Disc Disease

As we age, gradual deterioration of spinal discs is a common experience for everyone. Daily activities like walking, working, lifting, running, and carrying items contribute to wear and tear on intervertebral discs. Unfortunately, certain individuals face a higher risk of rapid degenerative disc disease.

Factors that increase susceptibility to accelerated spine degeneration include:

  • Genetics: A family history of spine issues predisposes individuals to degenerative disc disease.
  • Certain Sports: Participation in sports that place excessive strain on the lower back can lead to rapid disc deterioration due to potential trauma that can cause tears in vertebral discs.
  • Poor Lifting Technique: Incorrect lifting methods, whether in the gym or at work, can result in vertebral disc damage, leading to pain and reduced mobility.
  • Poor Posture: Prolonged sitting, particularly when your job requires it, increases pressure on the lumbar spine, contributing to disc damage.

Consulting a pain management specialist at any of our five locations in Wisconsin will ensure you receive expert guidance on the prevention and management of various spinal conditions. Our pain doctors prioritize understanding your concerns before conducting comprehensive diagnostic tests.

Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment

Once a diagnosis is made, your Pro Spine & Pain doctor will determine the most suitable treatment for degenerative disc disease pain.

Treatment options include:

  • Medications: Your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants, oral steroids, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to alleviate pain signals and reduce inflammation.
  • Steroid Injections: Epidural steroid injections can help reduce inflammation around the affected area of the spine, providing relief from nerve irritation.
  • Physical Therapy: Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to strengthen the muscles supporting your spine and to prevent further damage to the discs in the long term.
  • Surgery: If conservative treatments prove ineffective, spine surgery may be necessary. There are many degenerative disc disease surgery options available, including spinal fusion surgery which includes a bone graft, discectomy in which the damaged disc is removed, or artificial disc replacement surgery which involves inserting an artificial disc.

Prevention of Degenerative Disc Disease

While some degree of disc degeneration is a natural part of aging, there are steps you can take to slow down rapid deterioration.

These preventive measures include:

  • Avoiding Smoking: Smoking can contribute to accelerated disc degeneration, so quitting or avoiding smoking altogether can help preserve spinal health.
  • Engaging in Exercise: Regular exercise, particularly activities that strengthen the core and back muscles, can support the spine and reduce the risk of degenerative disc disease.
  • Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight: Excess weight puts added strain on the spine, so maintaining a healthy body weight through proper diet and exercise can help prevent unnecessary wear and tear.
  • Using Proper Lifting Techniques: Practicing correct lifting techniques, such as bending at the knees and lifting with the legs instead of the back, can reduce the risk of spinal injury and degeneration.
  • Practicing Proper Posture: Maintaining good posture while sitting, standing, and moving can help distribute weight evenly across the spine, reducing strain and minimizing the risk of disc degeneration.

If you’re experiencing persistent back problems, don’t hesitate to reach out to the specialists at Pro Spine & Pain for effective pain relief without surgery, including new treatments for degenerative disc disease.

Updated on Apr 26, 2024 by Dr. Thomas Stauss (Pain Management) of Pro Spine & Pain

Thomas Stauss, MD

Thomas Stauss, MD, completed both his undergraduate and medical studies at the esteemed University of Wisconsin in Madison. Dr. Stauss values having access to a wide array of cutting-edge treatment options, ensuring effective relief for his patients' discomfort and a significant enhancement in their quality of life. More specifically, he specializes in utilizing implanted devices to manage chronic pain. Dr. Stauss’s primary objective is to uphold the dignity of each patient while delivering ethical and professional services.

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