Degenerative disc disease in the neck can be caused by an injury to the upper spine or, more often than not, the result of years of normal wear and tear. Through the natural aging process, often by the age of 40, the soft intervertebral discs in our neck (specifically, the cervical spine) begin to change in protein and water content. The discs eventually deteriorate, making them weaker and thinner. Over time, this can lead to a herniated disc, bulging disc, thinning disc or other disc abnormalities, which are the most common source of neck pain and stiffness.
Degenerative disc disease means that a disc – one of the cushiony shock absorbers in the spine – has gradually become compromised. This condition doesn’t always cause symptoms, however. As with other disc problems, symptoms arise when an abnormal neck or back disc interferes with regular nerve function. When a nerve in the neck becomes impinged, pinched or otherwise irritated, a number of symptoms are possible, including:
- Neck pain (cervicalgia) or stiffness
- Muscle weakness in the shoulders or elbows
- Numbness or tingling in the arms, hands, or fingers
- Radiating or “traveling” pain (radiculopathy) along the nerves
- And More
Diagnosing degenerative disc disease in the neck typically requires a full medical examination and the use of medical imagery to confirm that there aren’t other underlying problems. While physicians see cases of lumbar degenerative disc disease (in the lower back) with far more frequency, cervical degenerative disc disease (in the neck) is fairly common, as disc problems in the neck can be exacerbated by car accidents, poor posture or simply the stress of twisting and turning the neck over many years.
Treating the symptoms of any disc disorder is usually first attempted with conservative care. This can include limited rest, physical therapy, neck braces, the application of heat and ice and the use of painkillers. In the event the patient’s pain is not sufficiently relieved, however, and the conservative treatment has proven ineffective, surgical intervention may be suggested.
Surgical options vary, but one appealing choice is minimally invasive neck surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures can be used to help alleviate the symptoms of degenerative disc disease of the neck or other areas of the spine, with less pain and recovery time than is typically associated with open spine surgery. To learn more, and to receive a review of your MRI or CT scan, contact Laser Spine Institute today.