There are numerous treatments options vailable. Each should be seleceted for the individual to achieve the best prognosis.
Conservative Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease
Most treatment plans involve a combination of self-administered treatments, medications, and therapeutic measures. Self-administered treatments include the following:
- Learn/practice proper posture and body mechanics
- Rest and restrict activities
- Limited bed rest to take pressure off the spine
- Mild activity (exercise) such as walking, biking, and swimming
- Apply cold and/or hot packs
- Wear a brace for support (may not be helpful in all cases)
Therapeutic treatments for DDD include the following:
Medications to Treat Degenerative Disc Disease
- Chiropractic treatment to manipulate the spine and provide appropriate biomechanics and neural feedback
- Acupuncture to relieve pain
- Massage therapy to relieve muscle spasms and tension
- Physical therapy to improve function and increase flexibility and strength
In some cases, medications are used to supplement conservative therapy. Medications that may be used include the following:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs; e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen)
- Pain relievers (e.g., acetaminophen)
- Muscle relaxants
- Spinal injections (anesthetics or corticosteroids)
- Sleep aids
Other non-surgical treatments include ultrasound therapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) pain control units.Surgery to Treat Degenerative Disc Disease
Symptoms of DDD usually can be managed without surgical intervention; however, patients who experience debilitating pain and disability that does not respond to other treatments may benefit from surgery. Primary reasons for surgery are to:
- relieve pressure on a nerve root or the spinal cord;
- stabilize an unstable or painful vertebral segment;
- prevent or limit radiculopathy (nerve damage); and
- reduce deformity or curvature of the spine
Discectomy and fusion involves removing the damaged intervertebral disc and replacing it with a piece of bone or another material. Over time, this replacement fuses with the adjacent vertebrae. A newer procedure, called microdiscectomy, accomplishes the same solution, but involves using smaller instruments and requires a smaller incision.In corpectomy, a section of the vertebrae and discs is removed to create more space for the remainder of the spine. A bone graft and/or metal plate with screws is then attached to stabilize the spine.Facetectomy, laminotomy, and spinal laminectomy are other procedures that involve removing a portion of the bony structure of the spine to relieve pressure on the nerve roots. Foraminotomy and laminoplasty can also be used to enlarge areas of the spinal column to make more room for the nerves and spinal cord.
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