Understanding Degenerative Disc Disease

Understanding Degenerative Disc Disease

By the age of 35, it’s likely that you’ll have some form of disc degeneration. As you get older, your risk for the condition increases.

At The Institute for Comprehensive Spine Care, our experienced spine surgeon Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, FAAOS, knows the toll degenerative disc disease can have on your life.

Dr. Bo specializes in treating the disease with conservative therapies whenever possible. He also performs minimally invasive spine surgery to treat advanced-stage degenerative disc disease.

What you need to know about degenerative disc disease

Since there’s nothing we can do to stop the aging process, it’s important that you understand the effect age-related changes have on your body – especially on your spine.

Your spine is made up of bony vertebrae that are protected by flexible discs. These spinal discs absorb the impact of your movements and prevent your vertebrae from rubbing together. As you get older, your discs can degenerate, drying out and become less flexible.

Continued pressure on the discs can cause tears in the tough outer coating of your disc and force the gel-like center outward. This material can push on the nerves that surround your spine and cause persistent back pain and other symptoms that interfere with your mobility and quality of life.

Your risk for developing degenerative disc disease increases with age, but you may also be more vulnerable to the disease if you:

If you have any of these risk factors and you have persistent back pain or other symptoms of degenerative disc disease, it’s important that you schedule a diagnostic evaluation with Dr. Bo. He can assess the health of your spinal discs with our in-office technology to determine if you need treatment.

Warning signs of degenerative disc disease

Persistent back pain is a hallmark symptom of degenerative disc disease. Depending on where the damaged disc is located in your spine, you may also experience pain that radiates into other parts of your body.

If the damaged disc is in your cervical spine (neck), pain can radiate up into your shoulders and down into your arms and hands. You may also experience numbness and weakness in your upper limbs.

If the damaged disc is in your lumbar spine (lower back), pain, weakness, and numbness may radiate down into your hips and legs.

Pain from a damaged spinal disc can worsen with activity or if you stand or sit for long periods of time. Without treatment, degenerative disc disease symptoms can worsen over time and evolve into mobility issues or a disability.

Treatment options for degenerative disc disease

The goal of your treatment plan for degenerative disc disease is to alleviate your pain and restore function in your spine.

Initially, Dr. Bo focuses on nonsurgical therapies to treat degenerative disc disease. This may include oral medications and cortisone injections to keep you pain-free. Medications can also make it easier for you to participate in physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support your spine.

If conservative therapies aren’t enough to treat your symptoms, you may need surgery. Dr. Bo offers several types of minimally invasive surgeries to repair or remove damaged discs including:

Decompression surgery

Decompression surgery involves removing pieces of bone from your spine to relieve pressure on your nerves or spinal cord.

Spinal fusion surgery

Spinal fusion surgery may be necessary to stabilize your spine after decompression surgery. Dr. Bo specializes in anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) and posterior transforaminal interbody fusion surgery to remove damaged discs and replace them with an interbody device to protect your spine.

Disc replacement surgery

Disc replacement surgery involves removing the entire disc and replacing it with a prosthetic device that functions like your natural disc.

To learn more about the available treatment options for degenerative disc disease, schedule a consultation online or by calling The Institute for Comprehensive Spine Care office nearest you today. 


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