Degenerative Disc Disease


What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a common back condition in which one or more spinal discs in the back weaken or deteriorate. The fibrous spinal discs located between each vertebra contain a softer cartilage core and help cushion the spine.  Damaged discs compromise the structural integrity of the spine.

Some disc degeneration is normal with age. DDD refers to a more advanced spinal degeneration that leads to pain, discomfort, or immobility. DDD can worsen over time and impede your day-to-day activities if left untreated.

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease

DDD is caused by the wear on spinal discs that come with aging. The sponge-like material of the discs dries out over time, causing a disc to become brittle and lose its function. A damaged disc cannot repair itself.

Other risk factors for DDD include:

  • Traumatic injuries such as falling
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Physically strenuous activities such as lifting heavy objects

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

The most common symptom of DDD is back and neck pain. People with this condition also experience:

  • Mobility issues, such as difficulty standing up or walking
  • Numbness or tingling, especially in the legs and arms
  • Pain that spreads to the cervical spine (the neck) or lumbar spine (the lower back)

Diagnosis of Degenerative Disc Disease

Medical imaging tests are the primary method for diagnosing degenerative disc disease. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) is the primary method used, as it offers a detailed image of the damaged discs, the surrounding nerves, and the supporting structures of the spine. Doctors may use a computed tomography (CT) scan in cases where the patient cannot undergo an MRI. While x-rays do not provide images of the soft spinal discs themselves, they can also help provide details of the surrounding structures and can help to identify instability.

Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease

Symptoms of DDD can be eased with treatments such as:

  • Heat or ice compresses
  • Physical therapy and stretching
  • Both over-the-counter and prescription medications
  • Steroid injections

If symptoms persist after pursuing these methods of treatment, surgical options such as fusion surgery should be considered.

Surgery for Degenerative Disc Disease

Surgery is the recommended treatment for those who have more severe spinal damage or who are not responding to first-line treatments. Types of surgery for DDD include:

Schedule a consultation with Dr. Ditty to discuss your surgical options. Dr. Ditty and his team will guide you through the steps you need to take for pre-surgical preparation and post-surgical recovery, including nonsurgical lifestyle changes to prevent further pain or complications.

Call (239) 337-2003 today to schedule a consultation or learn more.

Both Dr. Ditty and PA Monica were very professional, knowledgeable, and personable. Answered all questions took the necessary time to explain everything. Highly recommend. 

Thomas W.

July 2021

The pain I was having in the beginning of the year was indescribable due to my bulging disc. Dr. Ditty handled my pain with such thoroughness and understanding too. I ended up requiring surgery and felt hardly any nervousness the entire process. Dr. Ditty treated me as he would his own family. You can tell he is doing God's work. Not because he has to, but, because he wants to. Best wishes with your decisions. I rate Dr. Ditty and his team a 5-star rating without a doubt in my mind. 

Krissy A.

Dr. Ditty is the whole package! Excellent surgeon & bedside manner beyond compare. Dr. Ditty and his associates have changed my life and I will be forever grateful for their exceptional skills and patient care.

John R.