The spine is vastly important. It physically supports our mobility, while serving as a shield for the primary communication line between our brain and our body. Unfortunately, it ages in much the same way as the rest of our body. But can injured discs repair themselves?
Can Injured Discs Repair Themselves?
Thanks to the aging process, it isn’t abnormal for people to experience gradually worsening issues with their backs as they transition from middle age to old age. Sadly, the process may start much earlier if you’ve experienced a back injury, chronic dehydration, or malnutrition. Regardless of when it starts, once your spinal discs begin to deteriorate, there’s no going back.
Spinal Disc Deterioration
Your spinal discs essentially act as cushions separating your vertebrae so that bone never comes into contact with bone. They provide ample space for your nerves and added flexibility. Any injury to the spinal disc can cause serious pain, but the primary issue is the lack of blood supply to the discs, which prevents self-repair.
Ultimately, that means you will eventually need medical intervention to treat the damaged disc(s). The upside is that discs tend to degenerate very slowly. It may be as many as twenty to thirty years before you require surgery if the disc has only recently sustained damage. In the meantime, your spine surgeon in Los Angeles can help you identify nonoperative options. It will help relieve pain until you’re ready for surgery. To start, you’ll have to begin with a diagnosis.
Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease works as an umbrella term used to describe a number of issues affecting the spinal discs. In order to put together a nonsurgical treatment plan, your spinal surgeon will need to identify the exact cause of your discomfort. The diagnostic process consists of three primary steps: history, examination, and testing.
In order to diagnose your condition, your doctor will take a thorough medical history. This can ascertain when and how you experience your worst symptoms. Tell your doctor if you’ve experienced any weakness, numbness, or stiffness in addition to pain. From there you can expect a physical examination as well as an MRI to visually identify damage to the spinal discs. Together, these tools will help your doctor to pinpoint what you’re currently experiencing. Location and the nature of the injury will determine the treatment plan.
Treating Degenerative Disc Disease
Surgery is not typically part of the initial degenerative disc disease treatment. Instead, your spinal surgeon will put together a program combining physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication to help reduce pressure on your spine while tackling your immediate pain. For these treatments to work, you will have to be disciplined and follow the plan carefully. As long as you’re following the plan, you will likely experience marked relief.
The second step for patients who aren’t experiencing relief as a result of physical therapy and medication is the introduction of localized injections. Steroids can be injected directly to reduce inflammation, or your surgeon may choose a localized pain inhibitor depending on the presentation of your symptoms. These injections are typically used in coordination with your previous treatment plan.
Generally speaking, surgery isn’t normally considered a viable option for degenerative disc disease. Unless the condition proves very advanced or the patient’s symptoms haven’t responded to treatment for at least six months. As with all surgeries, spinal surgery comes with risks. The type of surgery will depend on the nature of your condition, so you will need to carefully discuss the process and potential risks with your spinal surgeon prior to undergoing the procedure.