When Degenerative Disc Disease Requires Surgery

When Spinal Surgery may be Necessary

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is a very common ailment that most people experience as part of the normal aging process. Many individuals have no symptoms as their discs gradually wear down, while others experience pain when the structures in their spinal canal become compressed due to shifts in vertebral alignment. Chronic pain is not usually associated with the condition, and occasional flare-ups can usually be managed with conservative treatments. Once the following treatments are exhausted, however, traditional spine surgery or motion-preserving spine treatments might be the only alternative left.

Exercise

Physician-approved activity that is practiced on a regular basis is a good way to support the muscles along the spinal column and help reduce the occurrence of discomfort from DDD. Walking is generally the best beginning exercise for people who have been sedentary, and core-strengthening training can be added as fitness improves. Patients who have access to physical therapy sessions can gain beneficial results from a qualified professional.

Medication

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are often sufficient to relieve temporary bouts of discomfort. More severe episodes may need to be managed with prescription pain pills, oral steroids or muscle relaxants. Some people benefit from periodic steroid injections that deliver the medication directly into the spinal canal onto the inflamed nerve roots.

Manipulation

Professional massages provide relief for some patients by helping to release hyper-contracted muscle groups along the spine. A chiropractor can also assist people by adjusting the vertebrae in order to take the pressure off of compressed nerves and other structures.

Mechanical Pain Relief

An individual who experiences chronic pain due to DDD may be a candidate for a mechanical device that offers continuous electrical pulses that are designed to provide relief. A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator, or TENS unit, is placed on the patient’s skin via electrodes, and the user can adjust levels of output relative to the amount of pain that is experienced.

Surgery

When conservative treatments have failed to provide relief, a physician and patient may opt for surgical intervention in order to alleviate uncontrolled pain. Surgeons commonly perform artificial disc replacements for intervertebral discs that are severely compromising spinal nerves and other structures. Spinal fusions may be performed in order to enhance alignment or as an adjunct to other procedures as a supportive measure.

For more information about an upcoming spine surgery or to get a second opinion, reach out to The Spine Institute for Spinal Restoration at (310) 828-7757. Our experienced team of physicians can assure you have all the information you need to make an informed choice regarding available treatment options.