The term “degenerative spine” describes any disorder that causes spinal components — specifically the facet joints and cushioning discs — to weaken and deteriorate. While everyone’s spine begins to degenerate with age, some people experience more advanced degeneration that interferes with their ability to move and live life as normal.
What causes the spine to degenerate?
The body’s natural aging process is most often to blame for degenerative spine disorders. No one can totally escape the effects of aging, but there are certain factors that can accelerate degeneration and jeopardize the health of the spine. These factors include:
- High-impact exercise and activities
- A diet low in vitamins and minerals
- Poor posture
- Tobacco use
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- A sedentary lifestyle
What are the symptoms of a degenerative spine disorder?
There are a wide variety of conditions that fall under the degenerative spine umbrella. Because of this, symptoms may vary significantly from person to person. For instance, someone with spinal osteoarthritis may struggle with immobility and localized pain due to cartilage deterioration, while someone with spinal stenosis may experience shooting pain and numbness from nerve compression. A good rule of thumb is to consult with a doctor if any sort of persistent back discomfort is impeding your ability to function as normal.
How is a degenerative spine disorder diagnosed and treated?
Most people begin treatment by visiting their primary care physician, who will likely perform a series of tests to gauge spinal health. Imaging tests such as an X-ray, CT scan or MRI may then be suggested to make an accurate diagnosis.
The majority of people with degenerative spine disorders are able to find relief from their symptoms through conservative treatment methods, such as:
- Physical therapy
- Gentle stretching exercises
- Medication to reduce pain and inflammation
- Heat and/or ice therapy
- Epidural steroid injections
- Back bracing
- Alternative therapies like yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy or chiropractic care
Will I need surgery?
Surgery is not the first course of treatment for degenerative spine disorders. However, people with severe symptoms that do not respond to conservative treatments may be considered candidates for surgery.
Laser Spine Institute in Philadelphia offers advanced, minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. Our board-certified surgeons+ perform procedures through a less than 1-inch incision and use muscle-sparing surgical techniques, allowing our patients to experience streamlined recovery periods and return to the activities they enjoy as quickly^ and safely as possible.
Contact Laser Spine Institute today to receive a no-cost MRI review* to help you find out if you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.