At Pain Physicians NY (Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Manhattan NYC) we offer absolutely the best Degenerative Disc Disease treatment options including planned exercises and physical therapy in Brooklyn in order to strengthen the muscles of the back, shoulders and legs. If over the counter painkillers are not effective we might prescribe narcotics, cortisone injections against inflammation, etc.
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Our Brooklyn back pain specialists are best in region. We were selected to be a part of the international medical team for the Rio Olympic Games.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease, despite its name, isn’t actually a disease. It is a general phrase which describes the alterations of the intervertebral discs that normally occur as we get older.
The vertebral discs are like jelly donuts. Their outer board is hard and tough while the center is soft. With time, these vertebral discs become less flexible and don’t cushion the forces of the adjacent vertebral bones normally and effectively as they should. Over the time, the spinal disc cracks and the soft jelly from the central part protrudes through the cracks or herniates. These herniated discs irritate the proximal nerves, resulting in pain, weakness, and numbness in the arm and leg. However, some people with herniated discs show no signs and symptoms at all.
What are the causes of Degenerative disc disease?
For some, degenerative disc disease is a normal part of the growing older process. For others, it is a result of a back injury, poor posture, incorrect body movements, lifting heavy things, etc.
Age is the most common cause of degenerative disc disease. Normally as we get older our spinal discs become less flexible, lose their water content and hence more prone to any wear and tears, even as a result of minor strains.
Lifting heavy things is another contributor resulting in degenerative disc disease. Lifting heavy things and especially lifting with the back and not with the knees should be avoided.
Back injuries due to a trauma or car accidents often cause degenerative disc disease.
Some people are at a greater risk of suffering from degenerative disc disease than others. Risk factors include:
- Obesity – obese people have an increased stress on the spinal discs, especially of the lower back.
- Genetics – degenerative disc disease is a medical condition that tends to run in the families.
- Occupation – people working on different kind of jobs that require physical activity are more likely to suffer from degenerative disc disease. It includes jobs that require pulling, lifting, pushing, twisting or even bending sideways again and again.
Possible complications of degenerative disc disease include:
- Worsening of its signs and symptoms – degenerative disc disease signs and symptoms like pain or numbness can get worse, affecting also the daily routines.
- Bladder/Bowel dysfunction – due to degenerative disc disease can result into difficulties passing the urine even when the bladder is full, or having bowel problems.
- Saddle anesthesia – the progression of the disease can affect the saddle area, which involves the thighs, legs and the area around the rectum.
Signs and Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
The severity of the signs and symptoms will depend from its underlying cause, as well as the affected vertebral discs. Common signs and symptoms of degenerative disc disease include:
- Pain in the arm/leg – the herniated discs in the lower back cause more severe pain in the calf, thighs and buttocks. Sometimes the pain can spread also in the entire leg and down to the toes. When the herniated disc is in the neck region pain is more intense in the arms and shoulders.
- Tingling/Numbness sensation – when a herniated disk affects a proximal nerve, it can cause tingling or numbness in the affected body parts.
- Muscle Weakness – muscles supplied by the affected nerves can weaken over time making it difficult even to lift or hold things.
How is Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosed?
In most of the cases, a good medical history and anamnesis, as well as a detailed physical examination are enough to reach the diagnosis. Physical and neurological examinations tend to check the reflexes, the walking ability, any muscle weakness, the sensations, etc. Necessary tests and examinations include:
- X-ray of the vertebral column
- CT (Computerized tomography)
- Nerve conduction studies, etc.
How is Degenerative Disc Disease Treated?
The treatment of degenerative disc disease will depend from its underlying cause as well as the severity of the signs and symptoms. Conservative treatment relieves the signs and symptoms of degenerative disc disease in about 90 % of the cases. It includes over the counter painkillers for relieving pain, planned exercises and physical activity in order to strengthen the muscles of the back, shoulders and legs. Painful positions should be avoided. Except over the counter painkillers, other prescribed medications include muscle relaxants in order to relieve the muscle spasms, narcotics when over the counter painkillers are not effective, cortisone injections against inflammation, etc.
Surgical therapy is the last treatment option when other methods have failed to relieve and control the signs and symptoms of degenerative disc disease. The surgical procedure is known as spinal fusion.
The most advanced pain management center, Brooklyn back pain management doctors and specialists at Pain Physicians NY offer unique, individualized approach. We are using the most effective back pain management options utilizing the latest technologies available in USA.
We always consider a non-invasive treatment options first before we turn to more invasive procedures like minimally invasive surgery.