Degenerative Disc Disease Treatments

Most people with the symptoms of degenerative disc disease (DDD) benefit from nonsurgical options that doctors commonly call “conservative” treatment. However, some people only improve after undergoing surgery.

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Short-Term Rest

Your doctor may recommend that you rest you back for a short amount of time if you experience a significant flare-up of your DDD symptoms. This temporary measure can take some of strain off your back or neck and give your muscles a needed break. However, if you rest for too long (any longer than a maximum of three days), you can actually worsen your overall back health by decreasing your normal muscle tone.

Pain-Relieving Medications

Medications used for degenerative disc disease treatment come in both nonprescription and prescription form. The typical nonprescription choice is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, which also reduces pain levels. Some people have more prominent pain symptoms and receive a stronger prescription NSAID.

During bouts of severe pain, a person with DDD may temporarily receive a prescription opioid (narcotic) painkiller. Additional medication options include muscle relaxers and nerve-blocking shots called epidural steroid injections (ESI’s).

Exercise and Physical Therapy

Although not a quick fix, in the long term a properly guided course of exercise or physical therapy may provide the relief you need from your DDD symptoms by improving strength and resilience in your back muscles and abdominal muscles.

If you are not fond of exercising, think of this: many spine surgeries, including minimally invasive procedures, include post-operative instructions with physical therapy or exercises to help you recover. If you start physician-guided stretches now, you can get a head start on pain relief and even improve your recovery if you have a procedure.

Your doctor can recommend exercises that work best for your particular circumstances. Potentially effective physical therapy techniques include back bracing, a course of posture improvement and treatments that include applications of a heat source, applications of a cold source, ultrasound therapy and massage. A well-trained physical therapist can also devise a safe and effective exercise routine that decreases your DDD-related pain without creating a new set of back problems.

Additional Conservative Options

Some of the lifestyle modifications that help prevent DDD symptoms can also help you after symptoms arise. For example, managing your weight can help you find pain relief, and can also improve the success of a spine procedure. Additional New Year’s resolutions to make include quitting smoking (which also helps with spine procedure recovery), finding a job that doesn’t require repetitive back stress, and finally listening when you are told to “lift with your legs.”

Degenerative Disc Disease Surgery

Degenerative disc disease often results in secondary issues like a bulging disc, sciatica, compressed nerves, and many more. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may need a neural decompression of affected soft tissue. The procedure, which relies on a guided laser and other tools, is designed to shrink the bulges and seal the cracks of the degenerative disc. This treatment can halt or slow continued degeneration and the inflammatory process which is causing pain and other symptoms.

More severe cases may require a stabilization or spinal fusion treatment, which requires removal of a damaged disc and use of a bone graft to fill in the resulting gap in the spinal column. Spinal fusion is frequently accompanied by another surgical procedure called a laminectomy.

North American Spine’s team of partner physicians treat DDD pain symptoms with a modern, minimally invasive approach that maximizes surgical efficacy while minimizing recovery time. To learn if you are a candidate, request a free medical review of your MRI.

How is DDD Treated?

DDD treatment depends on you – your specific physiology and how advanced your case is. The North American Spine medical team and your physician will thoroughly evaluate your situation and recommend a treatment plan to provide both maximum relief and minimum recovery time. Treatment plants are grouped into three categories:


Fusion or Stabilization