Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment

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Degenerative disc disease can make it hard to bend or even walk. But you don't need to live limited by pain. At UVA Health, you'll want to see a spine expert. They have the expertise to tailor a treatment plan for you. 

Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment at UVA Health 

Most degenerative disc disease can be treated without surgery. Our surgeons will always first try nonoperative treatments.

    Depending on the severity of your condition, physical therapy, injections, and medication may help relieve your pain.

    But if you need surgery, you'll find surgeons to tailor the best solution for you. Learn more about our spine care expertise

    What Causes Disc Degeneration?

    Discs lie between your spinal bones (vertebra) and serve as shock absorbers. They protect your spine and help it stay flexible. Unfortunately, these discs can start to break down from the wear and tear of life. 

    The disc loses fluid and is not as resilient as normal. The fibrous tissue, which holds the disc material in place, may suffer small tears. These tears lead to further damage like cervical disc herniation or lumbar disc herniation

    Who's at Risk for Degenerative Disc Disease?

    Your chance for degenerative disc disease increases with:

    • Older age
    • Family history of degenerative disc disease
    • Playing sports
    • Back injury
    • Smoking
    • Heavy physical work
    • Obesity

    What Does Disc Degenerative Disease Feel Like?

    Symptoms of degenerative disc disease include:

    • Pain in your low back, buttocks, thighs, or neck
    • Pain that gets worse when sitting, bending, lifting or twisting
    • Pain that feels better when walking, changing positions or lying down
    • Periods of severe pain that gets better after a few days or months
    • Numbness and tingling into the legs
    • Weakness in the legs
    • Inability to raise the foot at the ankle

    How Is Disc Degeneration Diagnosed? 

    You'll want to tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. To diagnosis disc degeneration, your doctor will take a medical history, and perform a physical exam. You may need some diagnostic tests. These might include:

    • MRI scan
    • X-ray
    • Discography
    • Blood tests
    • Urine tests