Disk Degeneration

dr. slaughterDisk degeneration is a normal part of the aging process and it usually does not cause symptoms.  We may not notice the effects of aging immediately, but if we look over time we may see the subtle changes that have occurred in our abilities to perform certain activities.  These same degenerative changes can lead to symptoms. For some persons with back pain, internal disk derangement is the cause of their pain.  This is at times assessed with diagnostic tests designed to reproduce the symptom.  This is typically experienced as pain in the spine or back.  It can occur anywhere there is a degenerative disk.  Often times people will describe it as a deep ache that does not allow them to be comfortable in any position for more than a few minutes at a time. Therefore they find themselves fidgeting constantly in an attempt to ward off the discomfort.

Treatment for this usually starts with conservative modalities.  This may include mild medications.  It can also include activity modification, therapy and at times bracing.  If all of these treatments fail then surgery is sometimes recommended.

Surgery for the degenerative disk typically involves removal of the disk.  In place of the disk, surgeons place bone in an attempt to fuse the bones on either side of the disk together.  This has yielded good success rates.  Newer surgical techniques can minimize surgical injury, lessen recovery times and still yield good results. Other surgeries such as those that aim to control disk motion are available.  Disk replacement can also be used in a select patient population.