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What is Disc Disease?

The spinal column consists of vertebral bones stacked one on top of the other, surrounding and protecting the spinal cord. Soft cartilaginous discs present between the vertebrae support the spine, act as cushions against stress and permit spine mobility. These discs can undergo damage or degeneration with age, overuse or injury, and is referred to as disc disease. This can result in the narrowing of the disc space and compression of spinal nerves.

Can Disc Disease be Treated Nonsurgically?

Back or neck pain caused by degenerative disc disease can often be treated by non-surgical methods, especially if the condition is not severe or progressive.

How do Non-Surgical Treatments Help Disc Disease?

Non-surgical treatments focus on controlling pain and inflammation and improving function. It can help you get through painful flare-ups and keep you active, which is necessary for recovery.

What are the Non-surgical Treatments for Disc Disease?

To manage disc disease, your doctor may recommend the following nonsurgical treatments and measures:

  • Medications: Depending on the severity of your condition your doctor may recommend NSAIDs, prescription pain medications, muscle relaxants, and steroids. Spinal steroid injections can help target inflammation at a specific site.
  • Exercise: A good exercise routine consisting of stretching, strengthening and aerobic activity can help reduce pain and promote healing.
  • Physical therapy: A specific program can be designed based on your symptoms and activities. It can include heat and ice application, stretching, massage therapy, spinal manipulation and mobilization techniques, ultrasound, TENS and exercises that strengthen the core muscles supporting the spine.
  • Acupuncture: This treatment involves the insertion of thin needles into specific parts of your body, corresponding to nerve pathways. The needles are left in for about 20 to 40 minutes. Acupuncture may work by increasing blood flow or causing the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers.
  • Weight loss: Losing weight is recommended as it helps reduce stress on the vertebral joints and discs.
  • Ergonomic adjustments: This includes techniques to reduce stress on the spine during activities and work. It may include education on posture, avoiding static positions, correct lifting techniques, and proper footwear.
  • Smoking cessation: Smoking can affect blood circulation and delay healing, so it is best to quit when recovering from disc disease.

Surgery is recommended if your symptoms are severe, persistent or disabling despite the above treatments and measures.