Discs in the cervical spine protect cervical bones by providing cushion and absorbing shock. Healthy cervical discs provide structural height and flexibility between vertebral bones and prevent friction, which can lead to pain and other related structural problems. When these discs degenerate and break down over time, they lose their natural disc height, shrink and even bulge or tear. This occurrence, which is natural as bodies’ age, is called degenerative disc disease. The severity and location of the disc degeneration will determine severity of symptoms experienced.
What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?
Some degeneration in cervical discs is normal and expected as we age but injury can increase or accelerate the degree of degeneration. Maintaining a healthy weight and developing good posture and body mechanics can all help protect spinal discs and even decrease the intensity of painful symptoms. Ensuring proper ergodynamic position while working at your computer is an example.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease in the Cervical Spine
Cervical disc degeneration symptoms vary based on the location and severity of the degeneration and the resulting conditions created. For example:
- A degenerated collapsed disc can compress adjacent spinal nerves, causing pain, tingling and possibly weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms or fingers.
- A severely dehydrated or desiccated disc can cause a stiff neck and or a deep and chronic ache that worsens with movement.
- Radiating pain into the shoulders, arms and hands can occur if the outer layer of the degenerated disk tears and the inner jelly like material, the nucleus, extrudes into the spinal canal and irritates nerves.
The MISI Approach to Degenerative Disc Treatment
Anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and possibly pain management injections and /or procedures are the first course of treatment for painful symptoms caused by degenerative disc disease in the neck. If instability is present due to severe disc degeneration, then a stabilization procedure may be required to treat painful symptoms and stabilize the cervical spine. The spine specialists at the DFW Spine Institute are specially trained in stabilization procedures of the cervical spine utilizing minimally invasive techniques when possible to ensure a faster recovery for our patients. Post surgery, it is important to work with a physical therapist or properly trained health care professional to strengthen muscles and help prevent future injury.