This version of Internet Explorer is no longer supported.

To get the best possible experience using our website we recommend that you upgrade to a newer version or other web browser. A list of the most popular web browsers can be found here.

PrizmDegenerative disc

Overview | Causes | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | FAQ

Overview

Degenerative disc disease commonly occurs with age, as discs become more brittle, less resilient and more prone to herniation. Degenerative disc disease is the single most common diagnosis related to serious back and neck pain. When a disc herniates in the spine, the surgeon can sometimes simply remove a portion of the disc. In other cases, where the disc is more damaged and must be removed, something must be placed into the disc space. Otherwise, the two vertebrae will collapse on top of one another, placing pressure on the nerve roots that branch off from the spinal cord.
[top]

Causes

Some of the contributing factors of degenerative disc disease are family history, lifestyle and age. The prime age for disc-related problems is after 35. If a parent had back or neck surgery for a herniated disc, you should be particularly concerned about taking care of your back. Lifestyle is another important factor. Those who perform frequent lifting or put themselves in situations where the spine is exposed to trauma or repetitive shock can also develop degenerative discs over time.

Osteoporosis can lead to disc degeneration. As bones weaken, a person becomes increasingly at risk for vertebral fractures.

[top]

Symptoms

Degenerative disc disease makes the back more prone to injury and can contribute to the following conditions:

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Hunched over appearance
  • Herniated disc
  • Vertebral fractures

[top]

Diagnosis

Outlined below are some of the diagnostic tools that your physician may use to gain insight into your condition and determine the best treatment plan for your condition.

  • Medical history: Conducting a detailed medical history helps the doctor better understand the possible causes of your back and neck pain which can help outline the most appropriate treatment.
  • Physical exam: During the physical exam, your physician will try to pinpoint the source of pain. Simple tests for flexibility and muscle strength may also be conducted.
  • X-rays are usually the first step in diagnostic testing methods. X-rays show bones and the space between bones. They are of limited value, however, since they do not show muscles and ligaments.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses a magnetic field and radio waves to generate highly detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Since X-rays only show bones, MRIs are needed to visualize soft tissues like discs in the spine. This type of imaging is very safe and usually pain-free.non surgical treatment for spine alaska, non surgical treatment spine homer, spine surgery alaska, spine surgeon alaska, spine center alaska, treatment for back pain alaska, spine center, dr craig humphreys treatment for back pain neck pain kenai alaska, kenai spine center dr craig humphreys back pain neck pain spine center
  • CT scan/myelogram: A CT scan is similar to an MRI in that it provides diagnostic information about the internal structures of the spine. A myelogram is used to diagnose a bulging disc, tumor, or changes in the bones surrounding the spinal cord or nerves. A local anesthetic is injected into the low back to numb the area. A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is then performed. A dye is injected into the spinal canal to reveal where problems lie.
  • Electrodiagnostics: Electrical testing of the nerves and spinal cord may be performed as part of a diagnostic workup. These tests, called electromyography (EMG) or somato sensory evoked potentials (SSEP), assist your doctor in understanding how your nerves or spinal cord are affected by your condition.
  • Bone scan: Bone imaging is used to detect infection, malignancy, fractures and arthritis in any part of the skeleton. Bone scans are also used for finding lesions for biopsy or excision.
  • Discography is used to determine the internal structure of a disc. It is performed by using a local anesthetic and injecting a dye into the disc under X-ray guidance. An X-ray and CT scan are performed to view the disc composition to determine if its structure is normal or abnormal. In addition to the disc appearance, your doctor will note any pain associated with this injection. The benefit of a discogram is that it enables the physician to confirm the disc level that is causing your pain. This ensures that surgery will be more successful and reduces the risk of operating on the wrong disc.
  • Injections: Pain-relieving injections can relieve back pain and give the physician important information about your problem, as well as provide a bridge therapy.

[top]

Treatment

A typical solution for problems related to DDD is a spinal fusion procedure.The main problem with fusion surgeries is that they don't often turn out well. While some studies claim a success rate of about 75 percent, that still leaves one in four surgeries as not successful. The second problem with fusion surgery is that there is a reduction in mobility that can cause other problems over time Because the fusion locks a vertebral segment from rotating, it causes more stress on the level above and below the fused site, which in turn can herniate these other discs. Thankfully, there is an alternative today—artificial disc implantation.

Dietary supplements or medications may be recommended to treat degenerative disc disease that is linked to osteoporosis.

[top]

FAQ

What is degenerative disc disease?

A natural byproduct of aging is the loss of resiliency in spinal discs and a greater tendency for them to herniate, especially when placed under a weighty load, like when we lift heavy objects. Additionally, some people have a family history of degenerative disc disease, which increases their own risk of developing it. When a natural disc herniates or becomes badly degenerated, it loses its shock-absorbing ability, which can narrow the space between vertebrae.

Who is a candidate for the artificial disc?

Patients with a diseased disc between L4 and L5 or between L5 and S1 (all in the lower back) that is worn out or become injured and causes back pain are candidates for the artificial disc. Other candidates include those with degenerative disc disease (DDD) whose bones (vertebrae) have moved less than 3mm. Your physician will help you determine whether or not the artificial disc is a good choice for you. Factors that will be considered include your activity level, weight, occupation and allergies.

What are the benefits of the artificial disc?

Generally speaking, those who receive artificial disc replacements return to activity sooner than traditional fusion patients. Also, because there is no need to harvest bone from the patient’s hip, there is no discomfort or recovery associated with a second incision site. Some of the overall benefits of artificial disc surgery include:

  • Retains movement and stability of the spine
  • Prevents degeneration of surrounding segments
  • No bone graft required
  • Quicker recovery and return to work
  • Less invasive and painful than a fusion
  • Reduces pain associated with disc disease

While the artificial disc may well be a promising new technology, most spine surgeons today are very cautious. There are many serious concerns including:

  • Constantly changing technology as new discs are coming out that last longer and may be easier to insert and remove
  • The life span of the implants are in question
  • What happens if the implant needs to be removed

Consult with your spine surgeon to determine your best option. Click here to learn more about the artificial disc.

[top]

 

Developing Centers of Excellence for Better Healthcare

Educational illustrations and content Copyright © 2016 Prizm Development, Inc.
Web design & Copyright 2016 © Prizm Development, Inc. All rights reserved.
PrizmDevelopment.com

Patient Success Stories
event one
event one
Bob

Surgery repairs damaged disc and returns outdoorsman to activity.

event one
event one

Paramedic gets back to life with Kenai Spine.

event one
event one

Healthcare CEO back on the job after pain relieving spine surgery.

event one
event one

School administrator recovers from back pain without surgery.

event one
event one

Dog sled champion back on the trails after non-surgical treatment.

Educational Resources
Medical Animations

Watch various medical animations to learn about conditions and treatment options.

recent post

View medical illustrations that help you understand pain symptoms.

recent post

Learn about special exercises and stretches that can relieve pain and help rehab muscles and joints.

recent post

Learn about minimally invasive surgery techniques that enable patients to go home the same day.

Where to find us

Kenai Spine is proud to announce that we have moved into our new spine center at 240 Hospital Place, Suite 103, in Soldotna, Alaska. Over the past few years, Kenai Spine has become a referral center for those with back and neck pain with patients coming from as far away as Anchorage, Fairbanks and Seward. Click here for driving directions.

Physician Bios
Medical Animations

S. Craig Humphreys, MD
Fellowship-trained spine surgeon
Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon

recent post

Mark Simonson, MD
Board Certified in PM&R
Board Certified in Pain Medicine