Degenerative disc disease isn’t so much a disease, but rather a term used to describe some degree of age-related disc wear or deterioration. When the spongy discs that cushion the spine as it moves deteriorate in more than one location along the spine, it’s referred to as multilevel degenerative disc disease. Los Angeles spine surgeons note that since DDD is slow and progressive in nature, most patients only realize it’s a problem once they start to experience recurring pain.
Multilevel DDD Symptoms
Since multilevel disc degeneration can occur anywhere along the spine, initial symptoms may be ignored or dismissed as nothing more than muscle strain. Symptoms associated with the condition can vary depending on which levels are affected. For instance, DDD in the neck may be experienced as neck and shoulder pain. Symptoms associated with disc degeneration at multiple levels may include:
- Pain associated with movement
- Discomfort that becomes worse
- Numbness and tingling sensations
- Pain radiating to the arms and legs
- Muscle weakness or stiffness
Diagnosing Multilevel Disc Degeneration
Treatments for multilevel DDD are more effective if the condition is detected early since ongoing degeneration can contribute to related issues such as disc herniation. Diagnosis of the condition starts with a thorough exam that includes a patient’s medical history and the elimination of muscle-related causes. Image testing can confirm the existence of disc wear and determine the locations affected by the degeneration.
Multilevel DDD Treatment Options
Degeneration cannot be reversed, although symptoms can be treated. The goal with treatment is to increase the strength of supporting back muscles and minimize inflammation that can contribute to pain. Patients are often encouraged to try physical modalities in the form of heat and ice applications, relaxation, and biofeedback. Treatments may also include:
- Customized physical therapy
- Strength training exercises
- Weight management
- Pain medications
When disc degeneration exists at multiple levels, conservative treatments will be recommended first. Surgical options, typically fusion spine surgery, is only an option if initial treatments aren’t providing relief or if the spine becomes unstable due to the level of degeneration. After surgery, patients will be encouraged to stay active and watch their diet to minimize the risk of further degeneration.
While there are numerous conservative methods for treating back pain, there are times when surgery may be necessary. In procedures like lumbar artificial disc replacement and cervical artificial disc replacement, the degenerated disc is removed and replaced with an article disc that increases spinal stability while preserving range of motion.
To learn more, call The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration today at (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation.