Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease Specialist Houston

Aches and pains can be commonplace as we age, but there’s a time when the occasional “ooh” and “ahh” turns into something more. Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common age-related issues that affect the spine. It happens when the discs or cushions that separate the vertebrae in our spine start to wear thin, providing less support to the spine. Not only does this cause pain in itself, but it can also open the door to additional painful opportunities due to a less supported spine. If you are tired of suffering with pain, the Texas Pain Care team in the Sugar Land, Missouri City and Houston areas is here to help. Partner with a Degenerative disc disease Specialist in Houston.

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is the breakdown of the discs in the spinal column. These discs sit between each 33 vertebrae and have a jelly-like interior that helps to cushion each vertebrae’s movement. They also act as shock absorbers in addition to helping a person move, bend, twist, etc. 

The breakdown of these discs happens to everyone as it is a normal part of aging. It is actually one of the most common causes of low back pain and neck pain. As the cushions wear away, the vertebrae rub together, causing both pain and possibly additional problems such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis and adult scoliosis. 

In addition to pain, the most common symptoms of degenerative disc disease include: 

While the pain can come and go, it’s important to recognize if the symptoms become worse or occur more frequently as this could be the sign of another issue. 

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

The main cause of degenerative disc disease is wear-and-tear/use over time. While everyone can expect to experience this disease on some level, not everyone will experience the same symptoms or the same amount of disc breakdown. For those who do experience pain, the process generally follows these stages:

Acute, one-time injury to the disc, which leads to disc decompression

The injury leads to inflammation and pain, as well as instability of the spine

With healing and/or treatment, the instability corrects and fewer symptoms of pain are felt

There are times that pain symptoms do not lessen, or even get worse, which is when additional and less-conservative treatment options are needed, as well as potential additional diagnosis of other medical conditions that could be causing pain symptoms. 

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How is Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosed?

Due to the fact that some people don’t suffer any symptoms from degenerative disc disease, the best way to be diagnosed is to partner with a trained pain management specialist who is versed in what to look for, and also what other medical conditions can be ruled out. 

In addition to the provider performing a physical exam and reviewing medical and family history, they will also use imaging devices, such as an MRI, as well as all diagnostic tools to determine the exact level of disc degeneration and the best course of treatment. Nerve function, pain levels and strength will also be tested, which helps to determine the state and alignment of your discs. Your provider can also ask questions in regard to when you first noticed the pain, where the pain is located, what the pain feels like, if anything helps to decrease the pain, if you had a recent injury, or how long you can walk without feeling pain. 

What are the Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease?

Depending upon the extent of the degeneration, pain management specialists most often begin with the most conservative treatment methods with the goal to reduce symptoms as comfortably as possible. 

At-home comfort measures: hot and cold therapy can help to reduce inflammation, and stretching therapy and rest at home can help to relieve pain.

Exercise and diet: low impact activity such as walking or swimming can help to strengthen back muscles, and enjoying a healthy diet and overall weight/BMI will help to reduce stress on the spinal column.

Medications: over-the-counter medications, NSAIDs, steroids or muscle relaxers can help reduce pain as well as inflammation.

Physical therapy: physical therapist can help to both strengthen muscles and provide therapeutic exercises that helps to support the spine and also relieve pain.

Surgical options: when conservative methods have failed to provide long-term relief from chronic low back or neck pain, surgery might be the next best step. Spinal fusions, dynamic stabilization, artificial disc replacement and nucleoplasty will help to restore function and provide pain relief. 

Of course, surgical options involve risks and possible complications, which is why it’s important to first attempt the conservative methods first. But, this can’t be done alone. It’s important to trust a trained medical professional who can first accurately diagnose the level of disc degeneration and secondly provide the most effective recommended treatment. 

The good news is that many people who suffer from degenerative disc disease are able to find long-term relief with at-home methods. If the pain is mild, or no symptoms are experienced regularly, the goal might be more to reduce the opportunity for pain outbreaks, which include enjoying an active lifestyle, eating healthy and maintaining your body’s ideal weight, and quitting smoking. For those who have mild to moderate degenerative disc disease, regular physical therapy and possibly medication use might be needed to keep the pain as manageable as possible. While there is no conservative or alternative way to regenerate the discs, taking healthy steps to strengthen muscles to support the spine helps to both minimize pain and also the chance of causing further damage to the discs or vertebrae. 

If you believe you might be living with degenerative disc disease and would like a diagnosis to determine if that is the case, please schedule an appointment with the Texas Pain Care team in the Sugar Land, Missouri City and Houston areas today. Our team is able to determine if you have degenerative disc disease, what the extent of the disease is, as well as the best treatment options that fit within your lifestyle. 

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