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Overview: Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)

Also known as Degenerative Disc Disorder.

DDD refers to dehydration and degeneration of one or more intervertebral disc(s) of the spine.

disc degeneration illustration

Symptoms:

Chronic neck pain that may radiate to the head and/or upper extremities.

Chronic low back pain that may radiate to the hips and/or lower extremities.

Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the extremities may also be evident.

These symptoms are often associated with standing/sitting and activities such as walking.

Tests may include:

  •  Radiographic imaging to evaluate the bony anatomy
  • MRI of the affected area(s) to evaluate the actual discs, nerves, spinal cord, etc.  On MRI imaging, discs are darker in color, decreased in height, and may have developed modic changes (inflammation surrounding the discs).

Treatment:

If conservative treatment options do not provide relief, surgery may be an option.  If weakness in the extremities persist or there is a loss of bowel or bladder control, surgery may be necessary.  There are many surgical options for the treatment of DDD–

  • Artificial Disc Replacement
  • Discectomy
  • Foraminotomy
  • Fusion
  • Laminectomy
  • Laminoplasty
  • Laminotomy
  • Microdecompression
  • Microdiscectomy

Gallery:

Degenerative disc disease

Prepare:

Ask yourself–

  • What are my symptoms?
  • Is there anything I do that makes the pain better?  Is there anything I do that makes the pain worse?

Have your Internist or Referring Physician order imaging of the affected area for you to bring to your appointment.

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