If you develop back pain that’s worse when sitting and feels better when you move, you may have degenerative disc disease. At Westlake Orthopaedics Spine & Sports in Austin, Texas, Scott Spann, MD, specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of spine problems such as degenerative disc disease, providing the full scope of nonsurgical and surgical treatment. To schedule an appointment, call the office or use the online booking form today.
Degenerative disc disease occurs when the discs between spinal vertebrae deteriorate. Spinal discs have a tough outer covering that surrounds a gel-like substance in the center.
Over the years, disc degeneration develops as the discs lose water and shrink or flatten. Additionally, everyday movements, especially repetitive motions, weaken or tear the outer covering.
Eventually, these changes make the disc collapse. When that happens, the disc can’t cushion the vertebrae, absorb shock, or support spinal movement.
Degenerative disc disease leads to spine problems such as pinched nerves, limited movement, and spinal instability. Disc problems also increase your risk for bone spurs and arthritis.
Patients with degenerative disc disease develop back or neck pain, depending on the location of the degenerated disc. Your pain may be mild or debilitating. Some patients have constant pain, while others have pain that comes and goes.
Most patients find that their pain is worse when sitting but improves when they walk or run. That’s because the discs bear three times the weight load when you’re sitting compared with when you’re standing.
When a degenerated disc causes a pinched nerve, you may develop pain, tingling, or numbness that travels along the nerve. This could lead to pain radiating down a leg or an arm. In severe cases, you may have muscle weakness in an arm or leg, or foot drop.
Spinal instability causes painful muscle spasms. You may also feel like your spine is about to give out because it can’t support the weight of your body or head.
Dr. Spann performs a physical exam, looks for signs of neurologic problems, and takes X-rays in the office. Depending on the results, he may order additional diagnostics, such as an MRI or an electromyogram (EMG).
Treatment for degenerative disc disease begins with conservative options such as exercise and physical therapy. Dr. Spann may also recommend steroid injections or muscle relaxants if needed for inflammation and pain.
If you still have pain after several months of conservative treatments, Dr. Spann may talk with you about surgery. He has extensive experience performing minimally invasive spine surgeries, such as discectomy, spinal fusion, and artificial disc replacement. Following your surgery, Dr. Spann continues to work with you throughout your rehabilitation.
If you develop lower back or neck pain, call Westlake Orthopaedics Spine & Sports or book an appointment online.