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Treatment overview and more!
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is a common spinal condition that can affect anyone but is most prevalent in people over the age of 40. As we age, the discs in our spine naturally lose their flexibility, leading to persistent pain and reduced mobility. This condition affects millions worldwide, disrupting their daily lives and limiting their activities.
Early intervention is crucial in managing Degenerative Disc Disease. The earlier you seek help, the more options you'll have for treatment, and the better your chances of regaining a pain-free lifestyle. If you are interested in learning more about pain management for degenerative disc disease, the diagnosis process, and potential treatments, we invite you to explore further using the navigation buttons below.
If you're ready to schedule a new patient consultation, you can reach us by submitting a contact form or giving us a call. Our team of degenerative disc disease specialists are ready and waiting to help guide your journey toward a pain-free life.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this office. I was helping my mom find a place for her arthritis pain, and I explained to them how bad it was. They were able to schedule me the same week! That's almost impossible at any doctor's office...and then add COVID..... I was thrilled. I took my mom, and everyone was absolutely so sweet and kind
- Donyasha B.
Dr. Rao. I can't find the words to tell you how much he has meant to me. I followed him from an old practice to his very new high tech office. They offer so many different areas of assistance to those with issues from nutrition to spinal surgery...and much more. His office is professional.
- Mom To2
Dr. Roa is such an amazing doctor! During my first visit he never tried to rush through my appt., he genuinely listened to all my concerns and then took his time to explain to me in detail all his recommendations and how they would help me.
- Nikki Walker
In the 3 years as a patient of Dr. Rao, it is my opinion that he is a phenomenal and extraordinary doctor. He keeps up to date with the latest treatment options, will sacrifice time no matter how many are in the waiting room to listen and explain. Dr. Rao has treated multiple patients with rare illnesses, and shows more empathy than any Dr. I’ve met.
- Mom To2
I have now been with Dr. Rao for 13 years. He is the most caring Doctor I have ever been to! Dr. Rao makes you feel very comfortable at all times. I would not want to go to any other Doctor... I go to the Hagerstown location, everyone is very nice
- Theresa R.
The entire staff from the folks at the front desk to the Nurse, to the Physicians Assistant to the scribe that records the visit for the doctor - (great idea so the Doctor can focus on the patient!!!)
- NVA F.
Completely the best care you could want the staff is so pleasant and caring and the doctors have true heart for healing, love being a patient here would give 10 stars if I could & absolutely the most caring during my procedure with Dr B
- Cathern C.
Always friendly, courteous, and efficient service. From the ladies, who work the front desk, to the nurses and the doctors. I've always had a good experience with the Harrisonburg office in Virginia.
They scheduled my appointment very quickly so that I can get to help that I needed immediately instead of like most places having to wait two to three weeks to get in I called and was able to be seen the next day
- John H.
After transitioning from a pain and spine doctor in Columbia, MD.. The intake staff member at Pain and Spine Specialist made the scheduling a breeze. They were able to get me in within a week.
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What Is Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative Disc Disease, sometimes referred to as Degenerative Spinal Disease, is a condition that occurs when one or more of the discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column deteriorate or break down, often resulting in pain. Despite its name, DDD isn't a disease but rather a term that describes the normal changes in your spinal discs as you age.
DDD is very common, and it's estimated that at least 30% of people aged 30-50 years old will have some degree of disc degeneration. However, not everyone will have pain or ever receive a formal diagnosis.
How Does Degenerative Disc Disease Affect the Body?
DDD primarily affects the spine, specifically the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine). As the discs between our vertebrae break down, they lose their ability to act as shock absorbers for the spine, leading to discomfort, pain, and reduced mobility.
The pain can range from mild to severe and debilitating, and it can also cause other issues like muscle tension or spasms. In some cases, DDD can lead to herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and osteoarthritis.
At Pain and Spine Specialists, we're committed to helping our patients understand their conditions. We believe that knowledge is power - the more you know about Degenerative Spinal Disease, the better equipped you'll be to manage your symptoms and maintain your quality of life.
How Fast Does Degenerative Disc Disease Progress
The progression of this disease typically unfolds in four phases of spinal degeneration: The Dysfunction Stage, Dehydration Stage, Stabilization Stage, and Collapsing Stage.
The Dysfunction Stage is the initial phase where the patient may experience mild discomfort. This is followed by the Dehydration Stage, where the disc begins to lose fluid, causing it to thin and provide less cushioning between the vertebrae. The Stabilization Stage is marked by the formation of bone spurs as the body attempts to stabilize the disc. The final phase of spinal degeneration is the Collapsing Stage, where the disc space can collapse completely, leading to severe pain and potential nerve damage.
The rate at which degenerative disc disease progresses through spinal degeneration phases can vary significantly from person to person. Some patients may remain in the first stage for several years, while others may progress through the stages more quickly.
What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease
As mentioned previously, Degenerative Disc Disease occurs in spinal degeneration stages. It often begins with the natural aging process, but it can also be influenced by certain lifestyle factors. Here's a closer look at what causes DDD:
Aging: As we age, our spinal discs tend to deteriorate. The jelly-like center of the discs begins to dry out and shrink, while the outer layer may become thinner or rupture. These changes cause the discs to become less flexible and more susceptible to injury. For most people, the spine degenerates between 20 and 25. However, the symptoms and pain associated with degenerative disc disease (DDD) usually don't present until later in life. You can learn more about degenerative disc disease stages here.
Dryed-out core: The disc's softcore has a water content that decreases as a person ages. As it loses water, the discs get thinner and start to bulge. Its natural absorption also tends to decrease, resulting in a less flexible spine. The less flexible the spine, the harder it is for someone to do everyday activities.
Injury or Trauma: Trauma to the spine can accelerate the degeneration of discs. This could be due to a significant injury like a fall, car accident, or minor injuries accumulated over time. Even tiny cracks can be painful as tears are usually near the nerves. The spinal nerve compression caused by a herniated disc or the disc bulging can also pressure the spinal cord and nerves.
Genetics: Certain individuals may be genetically predisposed to develop DDD.
How to Prevent Degenerative Disc Disease
While DDD is a part of the natural aging process, it does not affect everyone, and specific demographics may be more susceptible. These risk factors can make you more prone to this condition:
- Smoking: Nicotine reduces the oxygen supply to the disc, causing it to degenerate more quickly.
- Obesity: Extra weight puts additional stress on the discs, especially those in your lower back.
- Occupation: Jobs that require heavy lifting, bending, or twisting may put additional stress on your spine, leading to faster disc degeneration.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of regular exercise can lead to poor spinal health and contribute to disc degeneration.
Understanding these causes and risk factors can help you make informed decisions about your health.
Symptoms Of Degenerative Disc Disease
Signs and symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease can present a variety of symptoms depending on the location and severity of the condition. Pain in the back and the neck is the most common indication of degenerative disc disease, but there are many symptoms to look for:
- Pain that worsens when sitting or standing: The pain worsens when sitting or standing for a long time. It also gets worse when you twist or bend your back.
- Pain during certain activities: Sharp pain when bending, lifting, and twisting might worsen the pain. Especially when lifting heavy objects.
- Pain that comes and goes: The pain comes and goes and does not stay in one place for a long time. However, this pain can last for days or weeks at a time. In the worst cases, it takes months for the pain to go away.
- Radiating pain: Depending on where the disc degeneration has occurred, you may feel pain in other parts of your body. The pain usually points to the lower back and the buttocks. Some cases include pain in the upper thigh.
- Numbness and Tingling: If the degenerated discs affect nerves in the spine, you might experience numbness and tingling in your arms and legs.
- Weakness in leg muscles: In some cases, the nerves affected by disc degeneration control your leg muscles. If these nerves are compressed, you could feel weakness in your legs.
- Pain Improves when lying down: Pain often gets better when using proper posture or when lying down.
While these signs can indicate Degenerative Disc Disease, they might also be associated with other health conditions. Always consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis if you're experiencing any of these symptoms.
Things To Avoid With Degenerative Disc Disease
Some people experience the signs and symptoms of degenerative disc disease, but they do not experience any pain. However, for most people, the condition does cause pain. The pain can range from mild to severe, and it may come and go or be constant. The pain is usually worse with activity and improves with rest. If you have degenerative disc disease, it is essential to know what activities, positions, and movements to avoid to prevent pain flare-ups.
Poor posture is notorious for causing all sorts of pain, including back pain. Sitting or standing with poor posture puts unnecessary strain on your spine, leading to pain. Not only can it cause degenerative disc disease, but it can also lead to other spinal conditions. It can also strain the muscles and ligaments that support your spine, leading to even more pain.
Soda & Alcohol
The phosphoric acid in soda can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis, worsening degenerative disc disease. Alcohol, on the other hand, acts as a diuretic that can worsen the symptoms of degenerative disc disease, such as pain and inflammation.
Smoking also is a diuretic that can speed up the degeneration of the discs in your spine. In addition, smoking decreases the blood flow to your spine, which means it gets less oxygen and nutrients. This can also lead to more pain and other issues.
Degenerative Disc Disease Work Restrictions
DDD is directly related to the aging process and natural wear-and-tear of the spine, so there are no definitive work restrictions. However, if you have pain associated with degenerative disc disease, your doctor may recommend avoiding certain activities or positions that aggravate your pain.
These restrictions will be based on your symptoms and needs. But in general, it is best to avoid jobs requiring lifting heavy objects, bending frequently, or twisting your back. Physical activities such as sports involving impact or jarring should also be avoided to prevent pain flare-ups.
Maintaining a healthy weight proportionate to your height is critical and highly impacts your spine health. Excess weight can put a strain on your spine and make the symptoms of degenerative disc disease worse.
Unfortunately, degenerative disc disease cannot be reversed. However, some treatments can help relieve the pain and other symptoms associated with the condition.
These changes include but are not limited to:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Practicing good posture
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding activities and positions that aggravate your pain.
- Conservative therapies can also help, such as physical therapy, yoga, and chiropractic care.
Your doctor may recommend medication or surgery if these methods do not provide relief.
How To Diagnose Degenerative Disc Disease
At Pain and Spine Specialists, we use a comprehensive approach to diagnose Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD). Our process includes the following steps:
- Review of Medical History: Your journey toward a diagnosis begins with a thorough review of your medical history. We'll ask about your symptoms, their severity, and how they impact your daily life. We're interested in when the pain started, what makes it better or worse, and if there's a history of injury to the area. A detailed medical history helps us understand your symptoms' context and possible origins.
- Physical Examination: Next, we conduct a physical examination. This may involve checking your range of motion, assessing your posture, and identifying any areas of discomfort or sensitivity. The physical exam gives us clues about which discs might be degenerating.
- Diagnostic Imaging: We may also use diagnostic imaging techniques to get a clearer picture of your spine. This could involve X-rays, revealing disc space narrowing, fractures, bone spurs, or arthritis. In some cases, we may use an MRI or CT scan to provide more detail and show any damage to the discs and surrounding structures.
- Nerve Tests: In some situations, nerve tests, such as electromyography (EMG), might be used. These tests can determine whether your nerves are functioning normally and rule out other conditions causing similar symptoms.
- Diagnostic Nerve Blocks: Finally, we may use diagnostic nerve blocks to pinpoint the source of pain. These procedures involve injecting an anesthetic around certain nerves or specific spine areas.
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment Options
Treatment options for degenerative disc disease vary depending on the patient's needs and preferences. Here are a few types of degenerative spine disease treatments that we offer at Pain and Spine Specialists:
Injection therapies can be quite beneficial in managing degenerative disc disease. They primarily work by delivering powerful anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteroids, directly to the affected areas. This reduces inflammation around the nerves and spinal cord, which can significantly alleviate pain and discomfort:
- Facet Joint Injection: These injections deliver steroids directly into the facet joints in the spine, reducing inflammation and providing pain relief.
- Epidural Steroid Injection: This involves injecting a steroid into the epidural space around the spinal cord to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
- Sacroiliac Joint Injections: These injections are used to reduce inflammation and pain in the sacroiliac joint, which can be affected by degenerative disc disease.
- Via Disc NP: This non-surgical treatment uses an injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to stimulate healing in the damaged disc.
Advanced Interventional Procedures:
These techniques are minimally-invasive and involve specialized tools to target the affected areas:
- Spinal Cord Stimulation: This treatment involves implanting a small device that sends electrical pulses to the spinal cord, disrupting pain signals and providing relief.
- Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression (MILD): This procedure removes parts of the thickened ligament in the back of the spinal canal, relieving pressure on the nerves and reducing pain.
- The Minuteman Procedure: This minimally invasive spinal fusion procedure stabilizes the spine and reduces pain by preventing movement in the degenerated disc.
- Aurora Zip Lumbar Fusion: This procedure fuses the vertebrae to provide stability and reduce pain.
- Sacroiliac Joint Fusion: This procedure fuses the sacroiliac joint, providing stability and reducing pain.
- Radiofrequency Ablation: This treatment uses heat generated from radio waves to damage specific nerves and interrupts the pain signals they send.
- Intrathecal Pain Pump: This device delivers pain medication directly to the spinal cord, providing more effective pain relief with lower doses of medication.
These treatments are focused on alleviating pain without surgery or invasive techniques:
- Medication Management Programs: Medication management programs can effectively reduce the symptoms associated with degenerative disc disease (DDD).
- Referrals to Physical Therapy: Physical therapy for degenerative disc disease includes exercises to increase the flexibility and strength of your spine, helping you manage your pain.
Alternative Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease
Alternative therapies can play a supportive role in managing DDD. While the effectiveness of these therapies can vary from person to person, they are generally considered safe and can provide relief for some individuals:
- Acupuncture: A therapeutic technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. It has been used for centuries to relieve pain and improve overall health.
- Infrared saunas: These saunas use infrared light to produce heat, which can penetrate deeper into the body than traditional saunas. This deep heat can help improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
- Photobiomodulation: This treatment could potentially support the management of degenerative disc disease by alleviating pain and promoting healing.
Home remedies such as enough rest, hydrotherapy, exercise, heat/cold application, and over-the-counter or prescription medications can help alleviate the pain. Some people also opt for chiropractic care and physical therapy.
Please note that the effectiveness of these DDD treatment options can vary from person to person. Always consult a healthcare professional for the best treatment options for your condition. At Pain and Spine Specialists, we offer Degenerative Disc Disease treatment options in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
At Pain and Spine Specialists, we understand that degenerative disc disease can significantly impact your quality of life. This condition is not only painful but can also limit your daily activities. That's why we're dedicated to offering comprehensive, personalized treatment plans to help manage your symptoms and improve your overall health.
Our Comprehensive Approach
Our team of experienced healthcare professionals utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to treat degenerative disc disease. We believe in treating the whole person, not just the disease. Our specialists are trained in various disciplines, including pain management, physical therapy, and spine surgery, ensuring you receive the best possible care.
We use advanced diagnostic tools to accurately identify the source of your pain and develop a customized treatment plan. This could include a combination of conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and medication management, and more advanced procedures, like injection therapies or minimally invasive surgeries.
Our doctors stay updated with the latest research and advancements in spine care in order to provide the most effective treatment options for our patients.
Getting Started with Pain and Spine Specialists
Starting your journey towards pain relief is straightforward with Pain and Spine Specialists. Simply reach out to us to schedule an initial consultation. During this meeting, one of our experienced specialists will assess your condition, discuss your symptoms, and review your medical history.
Based on the results, we'll create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your unique needs and lifestyle. Throughout your degenerative disc disease therapy, we'll work closely with you, adjusting your plan as necessary and providing support every step of the way.
Contact a treatment location today to start your journey toward better health and improved quality of life.
At Pain and Spine Specialists, we're a team of board-certified physicians specializing in comprehensive pain management. Our expertise lies in treating Degenerative Disc Disease with successful, minimally invasive treatments, offering hope and relief to those with chronic pain.