Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disk Disease is a common occurrence as we age.  It is often called “arthritis of the back.” Throughout the aging process, the discs or “shock absorbers” in the spine weaken and collapse. This may result in nerve roots or the spinal cord being compressed, which in turn, can cause back or leg pain.

Symptoms

  • Lower back pain
  • Back stiffness
  • Pain throughout the legs 
  • Pain that worsens with standing, sitting or activity

Potential causes

  • Disc changes that occur with age
  • Injury
  • Frequent lifting
  • Hereditary factors, smoking, and obesity

Herniated Disc

When part of a vertebral disc ruptures it is called a herniated disc. A smaller herniation is called a protrusion. The ruptured disc may put pressure on nerves in thoracic, lumbar or cervical areas, often leading to numbness and pain. 

Symptoms

  • Discomfort and/or shooting pain in arms
  • Arm weakness or numbness 
  • Burning sensation in arms
  • Ankle, foot or leg discomfort
  • Leg pain that worsens when sitting
  • Weakness, numbness or shooting pain in leg

Potential causes

  • Trauma
  • Heavy lifting
  • Aging 
  • Trauma
  • Aging
  • Heavy lifting
  • Sudden twisting

Sciatica

When the sciatic nerve, also the largest nerve, is irritated it is called Sciatica. This nerve begins in the lower back and travels down the legs. Irritation can be a result of inflammation, bone spurs, foraminal stenosis, or disc herniation, and pain can be present when these conditions impact the nerve roots or spinal cord. 

Symptoms

  • Leg irritation that goes down to the foot
  • Leg pain—shooting or burning
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Sitting worsens pain

Potential causes

  • Bone spurs or thick ligaments that develop
  • Disc rupture or degeneration
  • Aging 
  • Twisting suddenly
  • Heavy lifting
  • Other trauma 

Spondylolisthesis

When a vertebral body slips to an adjacent one, spondylolisthesis occurs. This is mostly a degenerative disease among adults, and in adolescents it may be due to a deformity or trauma. It is marked by back pain and/or leg pain.

Symptoms

  • Pain in lower back
  • Numbness or leg pain

Potential causes

  • Adults: Changes due to arthritis, defect due to pars, degeneration of discs
  • Adolescents: Congenital deformity, trauma as a result of athletics, Isthmic Spondylolisthesis

Stenosis

When the spinal canal narrows, it is called Stenosis. This can occur in any area of the spine. As it narrows, pressure is placed on the nerve roots and/or spinal cord, which is painful. This process can be caused by: a collapsed disc, bone spurs, and changes in the spine, or cysts. 

Symptoms

  • Neck stiffness
  • Arm weakness resulting in a difficulty to use the hands
  • Numbness and pain in the hands and/or arms
  • Heavy or tired feeling in buttocks, back, and legs while standing or walking, or cramping in these areas
  • Weakness, pain or numbness in the legs causing infrequent walking

Potential causes

  • Pressure on nerves and spinal cord due to bones spurs
  • Large disc herniation resulting in compression
  • Changes in the neck due to arthritis
  • Limited nerve space
  • Lack of blood supply 

Other Common Types of Spinal Disorders 

Degenerative Spinal Arthritis: Degenerative spinal arthritis can occur as we age. 

Scoliosis: scoliosis occurs when the spine curves as a result of unknown, congenital, or degenerative causes.

Osteoporosis: osteoporosis happens when spinal bones are lacking calcium. It is commonly found in women who have gone through menopause.

Spinal fractures: spinal bones can sometimes fracture as a result of trauma or a fall. 

Spinal infections: when bacteria travels from the blood or urine, the discs and spinal bones can become infected.


Treatment Options

Nonsurgical

Spinal arthritis, degenerative disc disease, Sciatica, stenosis, herniated disc, and spondylolisthesis are typically treated with physical therapy, spinal cortisone injections, or pain medications. 

Surgical

There are many surgical options available to treat each case individually. Central Texas Brain & Spine performs the following spinal surgeries.

  • Minimal Invasive Spinal Surgery
  • Complex Spinal Fusion & Reconstruction
  • Laminectomy / Decompression
  • Diskectomy
  • Cervical Anthroplasty
  • Lumbar Anthroplasty
  • Spinal Fracture / Kyphoplasty
  • Spinal Tumors & Vascular Malformation
  • Spasticity / Baclofen Pump Placement
  • Spinal Cord Stimulator & Morphine Pumps
  • Pain procedures