Our goal at the DISC Spine Institute is to remove the pain associated with degenerative disc as quickly as possible, by the least invasive means possible.
Degenerative disc disease is not a disease per se, but rather a degenerative condition. The word “disease” tends to be confusing, leading to misconceptions about the condition. But, what is important to know is that degeneration is, in many cases, unavoidable. The discs, which live between the vertebrae, naturally lose their water content as we age and can also be affected by injury. As the water content is reduced, so too is the disc’s ability to act as a buffer.
The pain that people feel when they’re suffering from disc degeneration comes from a lack of a cushioning effect from the desiccated (dried out) disc. This puts more stress on the adjacent vertebrae (bones) and joints, which in turn causes more pain. When a disc dries out, it can also herniate and/or tear, causing more back or leg pain. Even minor movements can start to feel unbearable in serious cases. While not everyone experiences discomfort related to this condition, those who do can benefit from a variety of treatments to eliminate the pain.
Disc degeneration is a common occurrence that is often the result of aging. Injury, genetics, and overall health factors can play a role, but the wear and tear on the disc is typically due to advancing age. This condition is among the most frequent sources of pain in the neck and lower back. That pain can manifest as weakness or numbness in the arms, a pins-and-needles sensation, or flare-ups that include cramps down the legs and even into the buttocks, which hurt more when you sit or stand.
Any one or a combination of these symptoms is cause to see a doctor. Yes, the degenerating spinal discs may just be part of getting older for many people, but no one needs to be in agony when there are minimally invasive procedures that can treat the condition and help eliminate the pain.
While disc degeneration is a typical part of the aging process, not everyone develops symptoms. Also, not everyone who experiences some level of degeneration will need treatment, let alone surgery. However, if you’re experiencing any type of back pain, it’s important to see a doctor to diagnose your condition.
Delaying treatment for degenerative disc disease can lead to prolonged pain and convalescence, which can then create or worsen other physical as well as mental health conditions. Patients can develop bone spurs, which can then lead to painful pinched nerves in the spine. If the disc tears, the resulting pain may be excruciating. As discs degenerate, they often collapse down and bulge into the spinal canal where the nerves live. This is called spinal stenosis. Subsequently, the nerves get pinched/compressed and you may feel back or leg symptoms from it. In extreme cases, compressed nerves can lead to cauda equine syndrome, an especially dangerous condition that requires immediate surgery to avoid potential paralysis. Symptoms may include pain, numbness, tingling, weakness of the legs and loss of bowel and bladder control.
During your first appointment at the DISC Spine Institute, our friendly staff will collect your new patient paperwork and any other pertinent medical information. At this time, you’ll also have an opportunity to discuss your symptoms. Our trusted surgeons will study your medical history and your MRI, if you have already had one. Be sure to alert them to any previous medical conditions, which can help them better pinpoint the exact source of your pain. They will also determine if any additional tests, including x-rays or MRIs, are needed.
After all of these steps have been completed, we’ll have enough information to completely diagnose your condition and develop a treatment plan.
Dr. Mark Valente and Dr. Andy Indresano consider surgery only as a last resort for any condition, including degenerative disc disease. The DISC Spine Institute prides itself on making every attempt to heal your pain using more conservative, non-surgical treatments first. Thankfully, most people who suffer from degenerative disc disease can be successfully treated conservatively through a combination of exercise, physical therapy, and medications including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
If a patient is still in pain after several months or if surgery is the most feasible option for you, we will proceed with the most minimally invasive surgical treatment possible. Our surgeons are leaders in this field and are among a small group of surgeons around the world who are specially trained to perform these cutting-edge procedures.
Today, several minimally invasive procedures have taken the place of more invasive treatments. They include:
All of the minimally invasive procedures above are done through a small tube. The tube is placed between the muscle fibers without cutting the tissue. This preserves the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the back. The procedure is done with specialized instruments and microscopes to remove small pieces of bone and soft tissue to relieve the pressure off of the nerve. These procedures are done through incisions less than an inch long, are sutureless, often requiring just a Bandaid, involve very minimal blood loss, and are done outpatient.
Your surgeon will do a thorough examination and assess your condition to determine which procedure has the best chance of providing relief for your condition.
Recovery from surgery related to degenerative disc disease varies greatly depending on the type of procedure. Traditional fusion surgeries can require hospitalization and several weeks to several months of downtime while you heal. Minimally invasive procedures can cut down dramatically on the recovery time, and some procedures can now be done as outpatient surgeries, with patients returning home the same day.
The period after spinal surgery is equally important to the health and wellness of the patient as the surgery itself, and the entire staff at the DISC Spine Institute commits themselves to guiding patients through the process. We provide continued recovery support with any necessary pain medications, muscle relaxants, support bracing, metabolic supplements to aid in healing of bones/nerves/soft tissue, and physical therapy, where indicated. Our experienced medical assistants and physician assistants, together with Dr. Valente and Dr. Indresano, provide an enhanced level of support to help guide you all the way through the recovery phase.
Everything we do at the DISC Spine Institute is done with one goal in mind: To get you back to enjoying a life you deserve as fast as possible.