Degenerative disc disease is an age-related condition that often requires back fusion surgery. One of the most common sources of back pain, degenerative disc disease happens when one or more of the discs that cushion the vertebrae along the spine start to deteriorate. Typically, degenerative disc disease is the result of regular wear and tear; however, it can also occur because of stress placed on the spine from trauma, sports, or bad posture.
Degenerative disc disease treatment will depend on the individual and the symptoms they are experiencing. Caudal injections, physical therapy, active exercises, and making lifestyle changes such as adopting an anti-inflammatory diet like keto may all help with mild symptoms of degenerative disease. And while most cases can be managed non-surgically, if the pain continues and becomes unbearable, back fusion surgery may be necessary.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
The name is a bit of a misnomer. Degenerative disc disease is a natural condition that is part of getting older for many people. For some, the symptoms start with weakness, numbness, pain, and even a tingling sensation in the back that trickles down the leg(s). The exact source of discomfort will depend on which vertebrae are affected.
Other common symptoms of degenerative disc disease include:
- Pain in the low back, buttocks, and thighs
- Pain that worsens when sitting
- Pain that starts in the neck and radiates down the arms and hands
- Pain that worsens when lifting, twisting, or turning
- Pain that is alleviated with walking
- Pain that is alleviated with changing positions when sitting or lying down
- Severe pain that lasts for several days or months before going away, then returning
What to Expect with Back Fusion Surgery
If your orthopedic doctor has diagnosed you with degenerative disc disease and is recommending back fusion surgery, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Back fusion surgery is ideal for patients with a slipped or degenerated disc that can no longer support the affected part of the spine, or even for extreme cases of spinal arthritis.
Whether in the neck or lumbar spine, spinal fusion therapy often provides relief that was previously unattainable. During the procedure, your surgeon will remove any damaged bone or tissues that are putting pressure on the nerves. The goal is to reduce mobility at the affected spine segment. By fusing the vertebrae together and using instruments to stabilize the spine, the vertebrae will then be able to grow together on their own over time.
Recovering from Back Fusion Surgery
Following a lumbar fusion, there are certain things that can be done to manage the pain and help the spine heal. Depending on the patient, recovery from back fusion surgery may take as long as a year to fully heal. Some of the things you can do to expedite your recovery include:
- Physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Wearing a back brace
- Occupational therapy
The sooner you are evaluated and receive a diagnosis, the better. Back fusion surgery is a very effective form of treatment for this common condition, whether you are experiencing symptoms because of age or following a trauma.
An accident injury doctor can assess your condition and determine whether surgery is the right path for you. Give Dr. Atwater a call today to learn more about the causes of degenerative disc disease and how back fusion surgery may help.