Aging is a natural part of life, but it can often come with its own aches and pains. Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of back pain, especially in the lower back. If you’re suffering in pain, there are a variety of different ways to treat the symptoms of this condition. Here’s what you should know about symptoms, causes, and treatments that could help you. Have more questions? The team at Houston Spine & Joint Pain Consultants is always here to help.
What is degenerative disc disease?
Over time, the joints in your back may wear out and cause discomfort, even while doing simple daily tasks. It’s a common part of aging and, in fact, the occurrence of this condition is usually described in proportion to age. For example, 40% of people who are 40-years-old suffer from degenerative disc disease symptoms, increasing to 80% among those aged 80 years or older.
Why does it occur?
Your spinal column is comprised of an assortment of small bones called vertebrae. These bones protect your spinal cord and allow for range of motion. Along with these bones, disc-shaped cartilage provides stability. These discs between the bones of your spine act as shock absorbers, allowing for bending and twisting.
Nearly every person experiences some level of degeneration of these discs. It’s simply a part of the aging process, yet some people will never experience pain because of it. Basic wear and tear causes the discs to shrink and lose elasticity. Unfortunately, the discs can’t repair themselves like other bodily tissue. This is because of a lack of direct blood supply.
In these cases, this can result in pain and stiffness known as degenerative disc disease.
Do I have degenerative disc disease? 10 symptoms
The majority of individuals with degenerative disc disease report pain in various areas of the their back. For some people the pain is widespread, while others have a concentrated and nagging pain in one specific region.
If you believe you may be suffering from degenerative disc disease, some other common symptoms include:
- Pain that worsens after prolonged periods of sitting
- Neck pain that travels down to your arms and hands
- Pain that improves by changing positions or lying down
- Numbness or tingling sensations in your back or extremities
- Pain that lessens while walking or moving
- Lower back pain that also affects the buttocks and thighs
- Weakness and pain in your leg muscles
- Pain while lifting, twisting, or bending
- Difficulty walking
- Stabbing or severe back pain
How can a diagnosis help?
Aging can cause the discs in your back to lose functionality. This process is often made worse playing by rigorous sports or repetitive activity that strains your back. Regardless of the cause, it’s important to look closely at the condition of your discs in order to pinpoint the actual cause of your pain.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the best way to examine the degeneration you’re experiencing. During this diagnostic test, your doctors will look for discs that may be on the verge of collapse, as well as spurs. Spurs are boney growths that can pinch surrounding nerves.
At Houston Spine & Joint Pain Consultants, our team will use this technology in combination with an overview of your symptoms and medical history to confirm whether you’re suffering from degenerative disc disease. We know a solid diagnosis is an important first step towards you getting back to your life with less pain and mobility issues.
How can Houston Spine & Joint Pain Consultants help me?
The team at Houston Spine & Joint Pain Consultants specializes in a comprehensive approach to pain management. In some cases, simple lifestyle changes and methods of complementary care can greatly improve your symptoms.
For patients with severe and life-altering pain, interventional methods may also be necessary. Your doctor will closely work with you to determine the best pain management approach. In many cases, a combination of complementary and interventional procedures can result in successful, long-term pain relief.
Complementary care that is based on natural, non-invasive treatments are always important to try before turning to more advanced interventional methods. Some of the most common ways to treat degenerative disc disease include:
- Chiropractic care: Through spinal manipulation and adjustments, some patients experience significant pain relief through chiropractic care
- Physical therapy: Maintaining a routine of stretches and strengthening exercises can lead to increased flexibility, agility, and subsequent pain relief
- Acupuncture: An acupuncture practitioner places very thin needles into specific pressure points in order to improve symptoms and relieve pain
- Back braces: Support accessories, such as back braces, help reduce mild to moderate pain by limiting motion of the spine
Interventional pain management
In cases where complementary care doesn’t lead to long-term pain management, interventional pain procedures combine minimally invasive techniques with cutting-edge treatments to help you find relief. These procedures can help some patients avoid more invasive surgeries that come with long recovery periods.
At Houston Spine & Joint Pain Consultants, we often turn to the following treatments for degenerative disc disease treatments:
- Epidural steroid injections: A steroid medication and, at times, an anesthetic is injected to reduce pain and inflammation in a specific area. This is a simple procedure with a short recovery period.
- Facet joint injections: A local anesthetic and steroid are injected into the facet joint area to provide immediate pain relief and long-lasting anti-inflammatory effects.
- Spinal cord stimulator implantation (SCS): In chronic, severe cases, your doctor can use an implantable device to manage your pain. A spinal cord stimulator delivers an electrical current to the spinal cord to block the sensation of pain in your body.
We know that each patient and the type pain they’re experiencing is unique. Our team will work with you from the beginning to ensure that your treatment plan is both effective and easy to manage for your lifestyle.
Houston Spine & Joint Pain Consultants prides itself in providing the highest level of professionalism and experience when it comes to pain management. We are happy to serve patients in the Midtown, Katy, Cypress, Spring, Sugarland, Missouri City, Energy Corridor, Memorial and Houston area.
If you’re ready to find a life with less chronic pain, contact us today. We can help.