Degenerative Disc Disease, What is it? And How can it be treated?
So you’re experiencing pain in your lower back or neck that reaches your legs, thighs and buttocks and these symptoms worsen when standing? While there can be many causes for the lower back pain experienced, you might want to talk with your healthcare provider about Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD).
So what is it?
DDD is a common condition that occurs when the intervertebral disc providing cushion between vertebrae narrows over time, usually after the age of 50. In order to better understand this, you must understand the anatomy of the disc itself. Normally comprised of 80% water and 20% collagens and other proteins, think of the disc as similar to a jelly doughnut, with the tough outer covering, called the annulus fibrosus (which has nerve endings), and the inner jelly called the nucleus pulposus. Due to it’s anatomy, these discs act as excellent shock absorbers, allowing for bending twisting and stretching of the spine as water is pushed out and draws back in. DDD occurs as the disc naturally loses water content over time, begins to narrow and isn’t quite the shock absorber it once was. Pain can occur as a result in cracks or tears in the outer layer of the discs and as vertebrae compress, pain can also occur from bulging or herniation of the disc as well as facet pain from the increased stress on the vertebrae. Disc narrowing can also cause inflammation, irritation of adjacent nerve roots and not only lower back pain, but sciatica as well.
What can be done?
Treatment options for DDD range from over the counter medications down to surgery. So this includes anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, interventional treatments regenerative medicine and surgery. Some effective interventional treatments include:
- Trigger point injections – To help with spasming
- Facet injections – To reduce inflammation near the facet joint
- Epidural Injections – To reduce inflammation near the disc space
- Medial Branch Block – A diagnostic procedure that can provide pain relief
- Radiofrequency Ablation – Treatment of nerve endings causing pain
- Stem Cell Injections – Regenerative therapy to repair the narrowed disc
40% of the of the time lower back pain is caused by the intervertebral disc and DDD can lead to daily disabling pain that worsens over time. To mitigate pain caused by intervertebral discs, the aforementioned procedures are performed by our expert double board certified doctors at Premier Pain and Spine. As the top non operative pain management clinic in the chicagoland area, Premier Pain and Spine bolsters a success rate well over 90% and an award winning culture that values compassionate care. Learn more about DDD here and if you feel that you’re experiencing some or all symptoms of DDD contact us to schedule your consultation today.