Contrary to its name, degenerative disc disease is not a “disease” at all. It is rather a term used to describe changes to the spinal discs caused by everyday wear and tear, or aging. Degeneration can also be caused or accelerated by spinal trauma or injury. This condition can occur anywhere along the spinal column, but most often will affect the lower back.
When a disc deteriorates, its ability to cushion the spin and absorb shock becomes compromised. Due to the fact that discs have a unique biology and a limited blood supply, when an injury occurs, the disc is not able to repair itself.
When one develops degenerative disc disease, the discs lose their height, lose their normal fluid content, dry out, and become stiff. Disc degeneration may also lead to bulging or herniation. Nerve impingement, joint and adjacent bone inflammation and varying degrees of pain can occur when disc height is lost
If a disc becomes damaged or torn, the jelly-like material in the center of the disk can leak out onto nearby nerves, causing pain and inflammation. Tiny tears in the disc can also cause irritation to the nerves in the annulus (the thick, fibrous ring that surrounds the disc).
For mild pain, conservative treatment consisting of restricted activity or bed rest may be recommended. Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and/or epidural steroid injections are often prescribed for the treatment of short-term moderate pain. If your condition causes considerable pain or disability, Dr. Stieber can explain the various surgical solutions that may be appropriate for your situation. Diagnostic tests may include a CT scan, MRI, myelogram, or discography.
Dr. Jonathan Stieber is an experienced, caring, and thoughtful authority in the field of spine surgery, known throughout New York and beyond as a leader in his industry. As a board-certified, Fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon in NYC with nearly two decades of experience, he delivers an outstanding patient experience that enhances quality of life. Dr. Stieber is an Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the prestigious NYU School of Medicine and is the lauded Director of the Spine Center at OrthoManhattan. He was named a Castle Connolly Top Doctor for 2022 and a New York Magazine Best Doctor for 2021. Dr. Stieber looks forward to meeting with you to discuss your concerns and creating a personalized treatment plan to resolve your discomfort.