Degenerative disc disease develops slowly, but once it leads to a pinched nerve, you’ll experience pain that can be severe and debilitating. The Pain Institute of Southern Arizona in Tucson, Oro Valley, or Green Valley, Arizona, has helped many patients overcome the pain and limited movement caused by degenerative disc disease with comprehensive care that includes physical therapy and customized interventional pain treatments. You can also visit Regional Pain Institute in Apache Junction, San Tan Valley, and Gilbert, Arizona, a division of the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona. Call one of the offices, or schedule an appointment online.
Like other soft tissues in your body, the discs between spinal vertebrae are susceptible to degenerative changes. Over the years, the discs dehydrate, thin out, and can’t continue to do their normal job of cushioning your vertebrae and absorbing shock. Daily wear-and-tear also damages the tough outer covering.
These changes eventually make the disc collapse. When that happens, the spine can become unstable. Additionally, the vertebrae above and below the disc move closer together, leading to the development of bone spurs.
Any time a disc collapses, vertebrae move out of their normal alignment or bone spurs develop, and the nearby nerves can become compressed. The damaged nerve causes pain that may be a constant ache or a severe, sharp pain.
The most common symptoms include:
If you develop spinal instability, you may also develop painful muscle spasms.
Treatment for disc degeneration often begins with physical therapy customized to strengthen your spine, improve movement, and diminish pain and swelling. If your pain is too severe or doesn’t improve with physical medicine, your doctor at the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona (PISA) may recommend an epidural or facet joint injection.
These injections contain a local anesthetic to quickly stop the pain and a steroid that reduces inflammation to provide longer-lasting relief. Using fluoroscopic imaging to guide the needle, your doctor precisely places the medication near the affected nerve, either in the epidural space alongside the spinal cord or near the facet joint.
If an injection successfully relieves your pain, your doctor may recommend a radiofrequency neurotomy. This procedure uses radiofrequency energy to create a controlled wound on the nerve sending pain signals to your brain. The wound blocks nerve transmission, which means your brain doesn’t get the message, and you stop feeling pain.
Many patients find that physical therapy combined with minimally invasive interventional treatments provide all the pain relief they need to stay active. In the event your pain persists or doesn’t respond to treatment, however, you may consider surgery like disc replacement or disc removal and spinal fusion.
To get relief from your pain, call the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona (PISA) or request an appointment online.