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There are many different causes of low back pain, neck pain or sciatica. You may have a pinched nerve due to a herniated disc or facet joint arthritis. Spinal stenosis may cause pain and tingling down your legs. Or, your back pain may be caused by degenerative disc disease.

If you are dealing with spinal pain, you need to see your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis to see if degenerative disc disease may be causing your symptoms. You doctor can help you get the right treatment for your symptoms.

Understanding degenerative disc disease and its symptoms can help you decide on the best treatment for your condition. Once you understand them, along with the available treatments, you and your neurosurgeon can work together to remedy your condition and maximize your mobility.

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that may cause back pain. As we age, our discs, those spongy shock absorbers in between our spinal bones, lose water content and suffer from wear and tear. When this occurs, your discs can lose height and this loss of height can cause pinching on spinal nerves that travel down your legs.

Remember, degenerative disc disease is a normal process of aging. Not everyone with back pain has degenerative disc disease, and not everyone with degenerative disc disease has back pain. Because of this, working closely with a neurosurgeon who understands degenerative disc disease and its symptoms can help you make the best decisions when it comes to your care.

Degenerative disc disease symptoms can be felt in a variety of different ways and locations in your body. This makes proper diagnosis and treatment difficult, as your symptoms can be confused for other conditions.One thing is for certain – understanding degenerative disc disease symptoms can help you properly treat the condition.

Common Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms

There are many different symptoms of degenerative disc disease. These may include:

  • Lower back pain. You may feel pain in the central part of your lower back or off to one side of your back.
  • Lower back or spinal stiffness. Your degenerative disc disease may prevent your spine from moving normally. Pain and stiffness can make bending, rising from sitting or twisting difficult.
  • Pain in your buttocks, hip, thigh or leg. If degenerative disc disease causes collapse of the disc, your spinal nerves can become pinched, leading to pain down one or both legs.
  • Numbness or tingling in your thigh or leg. A pinched nerve from a degenerated disc that has lost height may cause numbness or tingling in your thigh or leg.
  • Weakness in your thigh or leg. If your spinal nerve becomes pinched, the muscles innervated by that nerve may become weakened.
  • “Locking up” of your spine. Degenerative disc disease may cause micro-motion between your spinal bones causing you to feel like your back is locking up when you move in certain directions.

All of these symptoms may be intermittent or constant and may range in severity from mild to severe. Degenerative disc disease symptoms may be so severe that they cause you to modify your normal work or recreational activities. Getting the right treatment from the right NJ neurosurgeon can help you treat your symptoms and get back to your normal active lifestyle.

Treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease

When you are first diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, you should find a doctor who understands the condition and can direct you to the best possible treatment. Mild cases may benefit from conservative treatments like physical therapy or medication. Therapy typically involves learning exercises and postural control strategies to improve spinal mobility and to strengthen muscles that help stabilize your spine.

If your pain is severe, you may benefit from spinal injections to help decrease your degenerative disc disease symptoms. Injections help to decrease pain and inflammation that may be causing your symptoms.

The definitive treatment for some cases of degenerative disc disease is surgery. Surgical interventions focus on restoring disc height, taking pressure off spinal nerves and stabilizing your spinal bones. The best surgery for this is a procedure called a lumbar fusion. During this operation, your neurosurgeon will use surgical tools to relieve pressure from your spinal nerves. Then, a small spacer may be used to help take pressure off your disc and specialized bone material will be placed between your joints to help fuse them together.

A small device is then attached to your spinal bones to help keep them together as they fuse. Once fusion has taken place, your spine will not move at that level, and thus, no pain will be generated from that previously damaged disc space.

There are different surgical approaches to spinal fusion surgery. The traditional approach is open, where a large incision is made and surgical tools are used to dissect your back muscles away from the bones. Then, your surgeon visualizes your discs and the decompression and fusion are done.

A more innovative and newer approach to spinal fusion surgery is minimally invasive spine surgery. During this approach, a small incision is made, and tiny portals are dilated through your back muscles, leaving them intact on your vertebrae. Then, specialized instruments are used to visualize your discs and make the necessary surgical cuts to decompress your nerves. Lumbar fusion materials are able to be introduced through the instruments, and your surgery can be completed.

The expected benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery include:

  • Rapid relief of pain
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less blood loss
  • Less surgical pain
  • Rapid return to previous activity

Finding a surgeon who performs minimally invasive spine surgery for your degenerative disc disease symptoms may have a positive effect on your overall surgical outcome and treatment.

If you have degenerative disc disease, you should take the time to learn about the symptoms of the condition and learn the various treatments available for you. By understanding degenerative disc disease and the surgical approaches for it, while working with a top-rated NJ neurosurgeon, you can be sure to have the best possible outcome with your degenerative disc disease treatment.

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