If you have low back pain due to degenerative disc disease (DDD), there may be many different treatment options for you. Your back pain may prevent you from enjoying your normal work or recreational activities, and that can lead you to wonder how to treat degenerative disc disease properly.
There are many different causes of low back pain, neck pain or sciatica. These may include:
- Herniated or bulging discs
- Spinal stenosis
- Facet joint arthritis
- Vertebral compression fracture
- Degenerative disc disease
If you have any spinal pain, you need to check in with your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and to start on the best treatment for you. If you are diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, learning about the different treatment options can help you make the best decisions about caring for your condition.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease is a pathological condition of your intervertebral discs, those spongy structures between your spinal bones that help absorb forces through your back. As we age, our discs lose water content and may lose height, bringing our spinal bones closer together. This can cause a host of symptoms including:
- Pain in the middle or on one side of your back
- Buttock, thigh or leg pain
- Numbness or tingling in your leg or legs
- Stiffness in your back
- Weakness in your thigh or leg
Sometimes degenerative disc disease may cause the inner jelly of the disc to become displaced. This can pinch on your spinal nerves traveling down your legs. Degenerative disc disease is a normal process of aging. As your discs suffer from wear and tear, they lose height and dry out. This may or may not cause pain. Some people with degenerative disc disease have pain; others do not. Symptomatic DDD requires that you visit your doctor and find the best neurosurgeon so you can learn how to treat degenerative disc disease effectively.
How to Treat Degenerative Disc Disease
When you are first diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, your doctor may have you attend physical therapy to learn exercises and postural control strategies to treat your condition. Your physical therapist can help you control your pain and improve your spinal range of motion and strength.
Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to help treat your symptoms of degenerative disc disease. This medicine helps to decrease your pain and inflammation around your spinal nerves. Opioid pain medication is not recommended as it has serious side effects and may be habit forming.
The definitive treatment for degenerative disc disease is surgery called spinal fusion. The goal of this surgery is to take pressure off of your spinal nerves and to stabilize your back to prevent future episodes of pain.
During spinal fusion surgery, your nerves are decompressed and then a special bone graft material is placed between your spinal bones. This helps to fuse your spinal bones together, stabilizing them. Small, medical-grade rods are affixed to your spinal bones to ensure that they remain in place while things are healing.
There are two approaches to spinal fusion surgery: the standard open approach and the minimally invasive spinal fusion. During the open approach, your surgeon makes a large incision in your low back and standard surgical tools are used to dissect your back muscles away from your spinal bones. Then, your disc is repaired and the bone graft material is applied.
Minimally invasive spinal fusion involves using a tiny incision. Your back muscles do not need to be dissected from your spinal bones. Rather, the muscles are slightly spread, and specialized instruments are used to visualize your degenerated discs. Surgical tools are then used to remove disc, bone or ligaments that may be compressing your nerves. Bone graft material and hardware can then be applied and your incision will be closed.
There are many benefits of minimally invasive spinal fusion compared to the standard open approach. These may include:
- Rapid pain relief
- Decreased scar tissue formation in your back muscles
- Reduced risk of infection
- Less blood loss
- Rapid return to normal activity
When considering how to treat degenerative disc disease, minimally invasive spinal fusion should be at the top of your list of treatments to investigate. Working with a top-rated neurosurgeon can help you have the best possible outcome with your degenerative disc disease treatment.
Qualities of a Top NJ Neurosurgeon for Degenerative Disc Disease
So what are the qualities of a top-rated NJ neurosurgeon? First, he or she should be board certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. This signifies that your surgeon has advanced training and is an expert in his field.
Your neurosurgeon should practice minimally invasive spine surgery for degenerative disc disease. This innovative approach to spinal surgery should be employed whenever possible. Not all patients are candidates for the minimally invasive approach, but having a doctor who is trained in minimally invasive spine surgery increases your chances of having such a surgery.
Most importantly, your neurosurgeon should treat you with respect and kindness. He or she should explain to you the best ways to treat degenerative disc disease, and you should be offered alternatives to various treatments. You should feel like you and your doctor are working together to have the best possible outcome with your surgery.
Finding the Best Neurosurgeon for You
Finding the best NJ neurosurgeon who knows how to treat degenerative disc disease the right way can be challenging, but the extra effort may be worth it. To locate a top-rated neurosurgeon, you should ask your family physician for a trusted referral. Speaking to family members and friends who have had surgery can also help you find the best doctor for you. Searching the internet for top-rated neurosurgeons who employ minimally invasive spinal fusion techniques for degenerative disc disease can help you locate the best surgeons in New Jersey.
The best way to find the right NJ neurosurgeon for you is to meet with different doctors and discuss your specific condition. Your doctor should take time to answer your questions about how to treat degenerative disc disease. He should listen to your concerns and help you feel at ease about the process of your treatment.
If you have low back pain or sciatica from degenerative disc disease, you should understand the various ways in which the condition is treated. By learning about all of your treatments options – including minimally invasive spinal fusion – you can be sure to find the best neurosurgeon for you. That way, you can focus on getting better and having the best possible outcome with your degenerative disc disease treatment.