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Degenerative Disc Disease

As we age, so do our joints. Just as our knees and shoulders may cause discomfort over the years due to wear and tear, so can the disks that make up our spine. However, in some cases, this can lead to degenerative disk disease, a form of arthritis where the cartilage that helps support the spine begins to wear thin. Here, we’ll go over the exact cause of degenerative disk disease and which symptoms to look out for. We’ll also go over the types of treatments that are effective.   

If you are experiencing any back pain or suspect you may have arthritis of the spine, our team of experienced orthopedic surgeons can help diagnose and treat your symptoms. We have offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau and Rockland counties, and New Jersey.  


What is Degenerative Disc Disease? 

Degenerative disc disease is a bit of a misleading name. It’s not a disease like the flu but rather a condition where the disks in your back begin to wear down and can cause several other issues. The cartilage between your disks acts as a cushion, preventing the bones in your spine from making contact with one another. When the disks do end up making contact, they can start to rub together, which can lead to conditions like adult scoliosis, herniated disks, spondylolisthesis, or more.  


What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease? 

There are several reasons why cartilage might begin to wear down. Most people over the age of 40 will likely see some level of spinal degeneration. However, there are other factors that can accelerate spinal degeneration in adults that can lead to degenerative disc disease. These include: 

  • Injuries to the spine 
  • Obesity 
  • Smoking 
  • Added stress from work (particularly in jobs where heavy lifting is involved)  

Finally, women are more likely to experience symptoms associated with degenerative disc disease. 


What are the Symptoms of Degenerative disc disease? 

Persisting neck or back pain are the most common symptoms of degenerative disc disease. Often, this pain can last for weeks or months. Other symptoms include:  

  • Numbness is your arms or legs 
  • Pain that radiates down your back into your buttocks 
  • Pain when bending over, twisting, or sitting 
  • Weakening in your legs 


What Types of Treatments Help with Degenerative Disc Disease? 

Over the years, several treatments have come about to relieve the pain of degenerative disc disease, as well as slow down spinal degeneration. These include: 

  • Pain medication, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, which helps reduce inflammation and lessen any pain. In severe cases, a doctor may prescribe more powerful pain medications.  
  • Physical therapy can help to strengthen your core and provide more support to your spine. 
  • Steroid shots can reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling. These shots are administered between the epidural space in your spine or directly to nerves or muscles. 
  • Radiofrequency neurotomy involves a surgeon using radio waves to break down nerves in your tissue, so they stop sending pain signals to your brain. While this procedure can lead to relief lasting months, it is normally considered on a case-by-case basis.  


How to Prevent Degenerative Disc Disease 

The most effective way to lessen the symptoms of degenerative disc disease is to reduce spinal degeneration from occurring as much as possible. Luckily, there are several treatments and life changes you can make to keep your spine healthy, even when diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. These include: 

  • Exercise and diet can help you reduce excess weight that can put added stress on your spine. The exercise will also strengthen your core and back, so there is less stress as well. 
  • Massages can help alleviate pain in your back.  
  • Proper posture will also limit stress on your spine. Try to train yourself to stand up straight, creating as much alignment from head to toe. If you have a job where that requires a lot of sitting, try to keep your back straight and not hunch over your computer or laptop. 
  • Hot and cold therapy, around 10-15 minutes a day, can also alleviate pain and reduce inflammation, which will lead to pain reduction.

NY Orthopedics Degenerative Disc Disease Specialists 

NY Orthopedics has multiple sports medicine offices in New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, as well as the surrounding counties, including Nassau, Westchester, and Rockland. NY Orthopedics surgeons are also well-versed in addressing issues with the knees, hips, feet, and shoulders. To learn more about our services or make an appointment, contact us today! 

Our Degenerative Disc Disease Specialists

Dr. Firas M. Chamas, Spine Surgeon
Firas M. Chamas, M.D.
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Dr. Christopher F.X. Riegler
Christopher F.X. Riegler, M.D.
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