Located between the vertebrae, the discs in the spine are made of a tough, fibrous outer layer that holds in a jelly-like core. This allows the spine to bend, twist, and flex. The discs also help to evenly disperse the pressure that is placed on the spine when walking, running, lifting weights, or bending, much like a shock absorber in a car.

Degeneration occurs when a disc begins to dry out, losing its ability to stay flexible and absorb shock effectively. The tough outer layer of the disc becomes more prone to cracks or breaks that can cause pain. These cracks in the outer layer can also increase the risk of a disc herniation. As the disc loses its moisture, it also “shrinks” a bit and reduces the space between vertebrae. This change in height may lead to compression of nerves exiting the spinal column.

What are the symptoms of degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is often asymptomatic. If symptoms occur, they can vary depending on multiple factors.

Some of the most common symptoms can include:

  • Pain
  • Pinched nerves
  • Inflammation
  • Formation of bone spurs (osteophytes)
  • Increased risk of disc herniation

What are the treatment options for degenerative disc disease?

Treatment of degenerative disc disease is generally conservative and can include the use of medications, such as anti-inflammatory medication, pain medication, and muscle relaxers. Physical therapy may also be recommended if your physician believes it would be helpful. Chiropractic and massage modalities may also be helpful in relieving the discomfort associated with this disorder.

Secondary conditions that arise from disc degeneration, such as pinched nerves and instability (which may include spondylolisthesis and scoliosis), occasionally require more aggressive treatment. This may include injections or surgery, depending on multiple factors. Your spine specialist will discuss recommended treatment options after careful consideration to determine what is the best option for your individual condition.

What does recovery look like?

While treatment cannot reverse the damage caused by degenerative disc disease, it can help to manage symptoms and prevent them from getting worse.

It can be helpful for patients with degenerative disc disease to exercise and stay active. If needed, patients can work with a physical therapist to learn exercises that can help with this condition.

For patients who have had surgery, the recovery process will depend on the procedure done and the patient’s individual needs. Our surgeons provide detailed instructions on what to do in recovery to ensure the best possible outcome.

Degenerative disc disease treatment in Austin, TX

If you would like more information about degenerative disc disease treatment options at Austin Spine or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled surgeons, please call our office at (512) 347-7463.