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What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative Disc Disease occurs when discs wear out over time and is usually caused by aging and regular wear and tear. It is characterized by pain, numbness and weakness in shoulders, arms or hand. This can cause major discomfort and interfere with daily life and activities. Despite the name, Degenerative Disc Disease is not a disease – it is the process of natural wear-and-tear on discs over time during aging.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

In short, aging causes Degenerative Disc Disease. But what exactly happens to cause the pain? The cervical spine in your neck is made up of seven bones, called vertebrae, which are separated by discs filled with a jelly-like substance. Discs help with cushioning, and stabilize the neck and allow it to turn smoothly and bend. Over time, these discs quit offering their shock protection and cause pain during neck pain during movement.

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease is usually manifested by neck pain. This pain is worse when upright or moving your head, and can be reduced by lying down or reclining. The disease can also cause bone spurs, small bony growths that develop on the spine, which make the pain worse and compress nerves. Neck pain can be a sign of many other serious medical conditions, so it is important to see a doctor.

Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease

A physician can diagnose Degenerative Disc Disease after a thorough examination. Usually part of the examination includes an X-ray, MRI or CT scan – this allows your physician to eliminate other possible diagnosis like fractures, tumors, meningitis, or bone spurs. Once you are diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease, you and your doctor can discuss treatment options.

Treatment of Degenerative Disc Disease

Because it is not really a disease, Degenerative Disc Disease can’t be “cured,” but there are plenty of treatment options. Depending on the severity, there are surgical and non-surgical treatment options for Degenerative Disc Disease. Non-surgical treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease include the following:

  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Steroids or muscle relaxers
  • Losing Weight

Typically, the pain can be managed without surgical options. However, if symptoms include numbness or tingling, or if pain continues after conservative treatment, there are surgical options such as spinal fusion. This surgery eliminates motion between two discs, which keep the neck from experiencing pain.

Treating Degenerative Disc Disease in Puget Sound

At Microsurgical Spine Center, we have expertise in these procedures and guide patients to the course of treatment that is right for them. If you are experiencing severe neck pain, numbness or tingling in your arms or hands, contact us. Call 253-841-8939 today to learn more or set up an appointment.

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