Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is slow degeneration of the discs joining the vertebrae, the spinal bones of the back. It is a common occurrence with ageing where the discs start losing fluid. Loss of fluid in the discs diminishes the proficiency to work as shock absorbers and accordingly produces loss of flexibility. The exterior ring of the disc called the annulus fibrosis, becomes weak and is more prone to develop tears. Correspondingly at the same time the nucleus pulposus, the central softer segment of the disc, becomes desiccated and contracts. As a consequence the disc center leaks out through the tears in the annulus and causes the disc to bulge or rupture.

Symptoms fluctuate from person to person. Some people may experience no pain while others may suffer severe pain. Depending upon the location of the distressed disc the condition may cause:

  • Neck or arm pain
  • Back pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs
  • Pain in the thighs and buttocks

The pain is often intensified by movements such as bending, lifting, or twisting.

The purpose of treatment is to alleviate pain and restore the function.

Treatment alternatives include conservative and surgical treatment:

Conservative treatment: Conservative treatment such as rest, medications, exercise and physical therapy, are endorsed for those patients that show no evidence of nerve root compression or muscle weakness.

Surgical treatment: Surgery may be suggested only after conservative treatment has failed to effectively alleviate the symptoms of pain, numbness and weakness over a considerable period of time. Decompression of the spinal cord facilitated by a discectomy, or an anterior cervical disectomy and fusion will be performed to remove the affected disc and fuse the associated vertebrae in order to stabilize the spine in that area.