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Degenerative spine information

Degenerative spine is a broad term used to describe the changes in the spine that occur with the natural aging process. Many conditions can be categorized under this term, such as:

  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Bone spurs
  • Bulging disc
  • Spondylosis
  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Collapsed disc
  • Many other conditions

What causes a degenerative spine?

A degenerative spine, as the name suggests, occurs with the natural deterioration and weakening of the spine with age.

The spine is a key component of the body, housing both the body’s structure, stability and the central nervous system. With so much pressure on the spine during every movement, it’s natural for certain spinal components to wear down over time.

For example, the discs in the spine are particularly susceptible to deterioration because they support and cushion the vertebrae. Every impact and movement is absorbed by the discs, which puts them at risk of damage over time. Seemingly insignificant changes to the body over time, such as weight gain and the weakening of the core muscles from inactivity, creates more pressure on the spine, slowly deteriorating the discs, joints and vertebrae.

This can lead to the development of degenerative spine conditions, like the ones mentioned above. For many people, these conditions can go unnoticed for years. However, sometimes a spine condition will cause a spinal component to move out of alignment and protrude into the spinal canal, pinching a nearby nerve root and causing pain and symptoms.

Symptoms of a degenerative spine condition

Because the symptoms of a degenerative spine condition result from nerve compression, they are often similar across any degenerative condition you may have. Common symptoms of a degenerative spine condition include:

  • Pain (local or radiating)
  • Numbness
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Tingling
  • Slowed reflexes in the extremity
  • Burning sensation
  • Limited range of motion

These symptoms may develop at the site of the pinched nerve or travel the length of the pinched nerve pathway into other areas of the body. For example, cervical (neck) nerve roots impact the neck, head, shoulders, arms and hands. Therefore, a pinched nerve in your neck may result in symptoms that travel to these affected areas.

Diagnosing a degenerative spine condition

A degenerative spine condition should always be diagnosed by a physician. Because the symptoms of common spine conditions are similar, it’s important to have a physician perform physical and imaging tests to determine the true cause of your symptoms. Self-diagnosis can be difficult and lead to more pain and potential health threats if treated incorrectly.

During your initial doctor’s appointment, you will likely undergo a physical exam where your doctor will press into areas of your spine and along your nerve pathways, such as the shoulders, arms and legs, to determine exactly where in your spine the pinched nerve is located.

Once the location of the pinched nerve is determined, your doctor will order an MRI or CT scan test so he or she can have an accurate view of what is causing your pinched nerve pain. This will allow your doctor to diagnose your degenerative spine condition and recommend a series of conservative treatments to help relieve your pain.

Conservative treatments for a degenerative spine condition

Conservative treatments are used to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve in the spine and block the nerve from sending pain signals to the brain. Often, these treatments take several months before lasting pain relief is experienced, but you should be able to notice some relief throughout the process.

Your doctor will recommend a conservative treatment plan based on the type of degenerative spine condition you have. Your plan will likely include a combination of two or more of the following conservative treatment options:

  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Weight loss
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Low-impact exercises
  • Stretching and yoga
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Massage therapy

If you have not experienced relief after several months of conservative treatment, your doctor may recommend spine surgery to treat your degenerative spine condition.

Spine surgery for a degenerative spine condition

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer an alternative to traditional open neck and back surgery to treat degenerative spine conditions. We understand the potential risks that come with surgery can be alarming, which is why we perform minimally invasive procedures that have a lower risk of complication and shorter recovery times^ when compared to traditional open spine surgery.

To learn more about the advantages of our minimally invasive procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We can provide a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.