Back pain plagues about 80 percent of American adults. Most of this pain centers on the lower back but can also occur in the neck and mid-back. If this is the case, there are high chances that you are suffering from degenerative disc disease. Fortunately, a spine specialist offers superior diagnostics and treatments for the pain associated with failing discs.
Let’s learn about degenerative disc disease, the types of treatments available, and where you can go in Hartford County, CT, for effective pain management.
What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?
For many sufferers, pain from degenerative disc disease comes on gradually. The fibrous capsule surrounding the jelly-like cushions between spinal vertebrae thickens, and the gel may bulge out of the discs.
Why do intervertebral discs break down? Age is the most common reason as people slowly lose height as they get older. However, discs also deteriorate and may cause painful pressure and bone spurs because of the followings:
- Heredity (this condition runs in families)
- Repeated heavy lifting and other strenuous activities
- Smoking, which deprives body tissues of needed oxygen
- Poor hydration
- Osteoarthritis, or OA, due to wear and tear on the spinal facet joints responsible for free movement in the back
Pain-relieving Treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease
There are several pain-relieving treatments available for this critical condition. Your spine specialist uses the latest imaging techniques to visualize the spine from the neck to the lumbar region. He also wants his patient to detail symptoms, particularly pain, what starts it, relieves it, and how intense it is. Physical examination and medical history round out the evaluation for back pain.
If the diagnosis is a degenerative disease, your orthopedic surgeon will provide you with a treatment plan to improve function and relieve pain. For many people, at-home and minimally invasive treatments work well to control back pain. However, surgery may be the best choice when the symptoms and desired therapeutic outcomes warrant it. Here are details on these treatments.
Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, provide many people relief from pain and inflammation associated with disc disease. For others, more potent prescription pain pills, closely monitored by the spine surgeon and PCP, are needed; some people also benefit from muscle relaxants.
Additionally, your spine specialist may recommend epidural injections placed in between the vertebrae. These injections contain anesthetic and anti-inflammatory corticosteroids. They are particularly effective for the lumbar spine.
Rest and activity modification
Rest from strenuous activity and sports can manage the pain and inflammation associated with deteriorating discs. Walking and swimming strengthen the musculoskeletal system and improve cardiovascular endurance and overall circulation. Plenty of water and a healthy diet hydrate the discs and help with weight control. Finally, smoking cessation is necessary as cigarettes harm circulation and limit the body’s natural ability to heal.
Occupational and physical therapy
Your therapist will perform an in-office evaluation to assess muscular strength, level of pain, range of motion, and more. Then, a treatment plan will focus on improving flexibility and muscular strength. Other interventions may include bracing, assistive devices, massage, and other modalities.
Typically, surgery is not the first choice for back pain relief. However, if more conservative treatments for degenerative disc disease prove ineffective, surgery may relieve the deformity and nerve impingement common to this chronic back problem.
Surgery may involve joining one or more bony vertebrae together to limit movement and strengthen the spinal column. This surgery is called spinal fusion and is one of the more frequently used interventions.
Other surgeries include:
- Discectomy, or removal of the damaged intervertebral disc and installation of an artificial disc material
- Bone grafting (with donor bone) and installation of a cage to support the spinal column and control its movement
Back Pain Treatments in Hartford County, CT
If your back pain is unrelenting, please contact Advanced Orthopedics New England for a helpful consultation with our spine specialist, Dr. David Kruger. You’ll get the answers you need to feel better and enjoy your favorite activities. Dr. Kruger sees patients at our Enfield, Bloomfield, Rocky Hill, and Vernon, CT, offices. Call today: (860) 728-6740, or request a visit online.