Degenerative disc disease surgery is a method oftreatment that is sometimes recommendedwhen all other more conservative techniqueshave been exhausted. While rarely necessary,for a select segment of the population, thiscourse of action may represent the best chancefor lasting pain relief. So, what is degenerativedisc disease and why would surgery benecessary to fix the problem?
Degenerative Disc DiseaseThe term degenerative disc disease is assigned toinstances when one or more of the intervertebral discsthat cushion the spine become severely deteriorated. Inthe back and neck, the vertebrae that make up the spinalcolumn are cushioned and separated by these discs.These discs each feature a gel-like inner disc material,known as the nucleus pulposus, which makes the discflexible, as well as a tough outer shell, known as theannulus fibrosus, that gives the disc its strength. Wheneverything is working the way it should, the intervertebraldiscs, along with the vertebral facet joints, and a varietyof other spinal components allow for the full range ofmotion that we require from our back and neck.
What Happens to the Spinal AnatomyThe problem with the spinal anatomy is that over the years it has a tendencyto naturally deteriorate. Vertebral joints become arthritic, ligaments calcify,muscles atrophy, and discs become worn. This degeneration is entirelynormal and accounts for the loss of flexibility that most of us associate withaging. However, when wear and tear advances to the point that chronic paindevelops, treatment may be required.A final important note about degenerative disc disease is that more oftenthan not, the symptoms that arise from this condition have more to do withnerve compression that occurs as a result of the deterioration of the disc thanfrom the deterioration itself. The spinal column is an extremely tightly packedregion of the body, and a change to one part of the anatomy can have a rippleeffect with wide-reaching ramifications. For instance, when disc materialseeps into the spinal column it may come in contact with a nerve, impedingthe regular function of the nerve, which will lead to any number ofsymptoms.
Treatment OptionsIn most instances, degenerative disc diseasecan sufficiently be treated with a combinationof noninvasive techniques. In fact, only in themost extreme cases is degenerative discdisease surgery usually warranted. More oftenthan not, a doctor can help develop a regimenof conservative treatments that will help thepatient sufficiently manage their pain in thelong-term. Yet, while there is no shortage ofpossible treatments available, finding the rightcombination is exceedingly important. Takingthe wrong approach may prove to be a wasteof time or even makes symptoms worse.That said, some combination of anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, stretchingexercises, hot/cold therapy, and other similartreatments more often than not will providethe results the patient requires in time.
SurgeryIn the event that several weeks or months of conservative treatment fails to abate the patient’ssymptoms, degenerative disc disease surgery may be considered. There are a wide variety ofdifferent surgeries that can be recommended depending on the patient and their condition. Forinstance, one common spine surgery is known as spinal fusion. During this procedure, thedeteriorated intervertebral disc is carefully removed and replaced with a bone graft. The affectedvertebrae are then stabilized with surgical hardware. This invasive procedure may be effectivebecause it permanently immobilizes the region of the spine, preventing painful movement, but itis also highly intrusive and requires a sacrifice of flexibility as well as several months of recoveryand rehabilitation.Alternatively, many people turn to minimally invasive spine procedures for relief. These state-of-the-art techniques are designed to remove herniated disc material and make other smalladjustments to relieve nerve compression in the spinal canal. In most instances, this treatment isconducted on an outpatient basis and requires very little post-operative recovery, however notevery patient is a candidate for this approach.To learn more about degenerative disc disease surgery and other treatments, speak with yourdoctor or a spine specialist today.