Degenerative spinal disease

Degenerative spinal diseases are conditions that occur due to normal wear and tear on the spine over time. These conditions usually happen in older people, but younger people who have had traumatic injuries or who have put extra strain on their spines can also develop degenerative spinal disease.

Common degenerative spinal diseases include:

  • Herniated disc – This condition causes one of the discs between the spine to bulge out and press on a nerve.
  • Degenerative disc disease – With this condition, one or more of the discs in the spine starts to break down, causing pain.
  • Spinal stenosis – Spinal stenosis means the open spaces within the spinal bones start to shrink, compressing the nerves.
  • Spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis – Spondylolysis is a fracture in one of the spinal bones. Spondylolisthesis is a condition that happens when that fractured bone starts to shift out of position.
  • Cervical spondylosis with myelopathy – With this condition, the spinal canal narrows over time and compresses the nerves that run through it.

These conditions can cause very similar symptoms, such as:

  • Numbness or tingling in one of your arms or legs
  • Pain in your back, neck, leg or buttocks
  • Stiffness in your back or neck
  • Limited mobility

In some cases, you may also notice problems with incontinence or sexual function if the nerves that control those areas are being compressed.

Riddle Hospital is certified by The Joint Commission for Spine Surgery.

Who’s at risk for degenerative spinal disease?

Sometimes, developing a degenerative spinal disease is part of the normal aging process, and there’s not much you can do to prevent it. Other risk factors for degenerative spinal disease include:

  • Having a previous back or neck injury
  • Being overweight
  • Having bad posture
  • Working in a job that requires a lot of bending or lifting
  • Participating in high-impact sports

The best ways to prevent degenerative spinal disease are to maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet and stay physically active. If your job or your activities put you at risk, be sure to wear proper safety equipment and use correct form when lifting objects.

Diagnosing degenerative spinal disease

Most of the time, degenerative spinal disease can be diagnosed with an imaging test. That often means an X-ray, CT scan or MRI, but other imaging tests that use a small injection of dye or a radioactive material may also be needed to see which part of the spine is affected. Your doctor will also do a physical exam to check your back and neck.

Our specialists have your back

Treatment for degenerative spinal disease can vary from person to person, based on your specific condition and your overall health. Physical therapy is usually a good first step, and your doctor may also recommend pain medicines. If that’s not enough to relieve your symptoms, the surgeons at Main Line Health offer a wide range of surgical procedures for degenerative spine conditions. Many of these surgeries can be done as a minimally invasive procedure, which means a quicker and easier recovery for you.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.