Degenerative Disc Disease
Despite its name, degenerative disc disease is not a disease; it is simply a term referring to the wearing down of the spinal discs that may occur as part of the body’s natural aging process. The spinal discs separate the vertebrae, the interconnected bones of which the spine is made of; these discs allow the spine to move smoothly. Degenerative disc disease can affect any part of the spine; however, it typically affects the neck (cervical) and lower back (lumbar) areas.
Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease almost always occurs as a result of aging. In some people, the natural aging process simply causes the spinal discs to break down, or degenerate. These changes include fluid loss within the discs, reducing their overall flexibility, and tears in the discs, causing them to bulge or rupture. In some people, degenerative disc disease occurs after developing a herniated disc, typically caused by an injury.
As with many other conditions, degenerative disc disease is more apt to develop in people that smoke or are obese. It is therefore important to quit smoking and develop an active, healthy life to lower your chances of developing degenerative disc disease and many other conditions.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
The symptoms of degenerative disc disease vary from person to person, depending on the affected area. Individuals suffering from this condition may experience pain in their neck, back, arm, leg, or buttocks. Some people may experience no pain at all from this condition, in which case it remains unnoticed. Individuals experiencing pain in any of the aforementioned areas should see their doctor to verify its cause.
Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease
To diagnose degenerative disc disease, your doctor will perform a full physical exam and review your medical history. The examination will entail inspecting the affected area for tenderness, numbness, decreased range of motion, and pain during motion, among other factors. In certain cases, x-rays may be utilized to obtain a clearer view of the affected area.
Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease
In many cases, degenerative disc disease can simply be managed with over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Depending on personal preferences, ice or heat may also be applied to the affected area.
If degenerative disc disease has led to additional conditions, such as osteoarthritis, more aggressive forms of treatment may be necessary. Physical therapy aims to relive symptoms with strengthening exercises for the affected area. Symptoms that remain unresponsive to medication and physical therapy may require surgical removal of the degenerated disc. Your doctor will develop a customized treatment plan for your individual condition.
At Princeton Neurological Surgery, Dr. Lipani is a board certified fellowship trained spine surgeon in New Jersey who performs minimally invasive spine surgery as well as complex spinal procedures. Dr. Lipani is a specialist in the treatment for degenerative disc disease and many other spinal conditions such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, low back pain, neck pain, spinal tumors, spinal cancer and more. Dr. Lipani treats patients from around the world, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey including locally from Princeton, New Brunswick, Hopewell, Pennington and communities throughout Somerset, Middlesex, Ocean, Burlington, Monmouth and Mercer Counties for degenerative disc disease. Dr. Lipani offers image guided spine surgery approaches for degenerative disc disease treatment, tailored to the needs of each patient. For state-of-the-art degenerative disc disease treatment, call or email us to schedule a consultation at our offices in Hamilton, New Jersey or Bridgewater, New Jersey!