Treating Symptomatic Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

Category: Neck Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: February 27, 2018

Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

Symptomatic cervical degenerative disc (SCDD) is a condition that affects the spinal discs in your neck. It’s more common than you might think, especially in older adults whose discs have been exposed to years of movement and stress. Below, we take a closer look at the condition, and we explain how it’s treated.

Causes and Symptoms of Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

As we noted in the intro, symptomatic cervical degenerative disc disease is usually brought on by wear and tear on the joints over decades of use. This stress gradually wears down the spinal disc height, which can cause them to shift or become unstable. The condition can also be brought upon by acute injury that damages or shifts discs in the cervical region. Traffic accidents and sports injuries are the most common acute causes of SCDD.

Symptoms of the condition include:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Tingling sensation
  • Radiating pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain that worsens with movement

Diagnosing and Treating Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

Symptomatic cervical degenerative disc disease can be diagnosed by an in-person exam with a spine specialist. The spine surgeon will begin by listening to your description of symptoms and checking over your medical history. They’ll then take a look at your neck, and they may perform some range of motion tests to determine where mobility is limited or which actions cause symptoms to develop. From there, they will confirm the diagnosis of SCDD with an imaging test. Oftentimes an X-ray is used, but depending on your circumstances, your doctor may choose to order and MRI or CT scan.

After diagnosis, your spine specialist will walk you through your treatment options. Unless a very serious condition is revealed, which is rare, your doctor will first suggest some conservative care options. Your exact treatment will be dependent on what problems are associated with your degenerative cervical discs, like compressed nerves or the onset of bone spurs, but some common treatment options include targeted physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, short-term rest paired with strength training exercises, or corticosteroid injections.

If after at least six weeks of conservative care, your condition hasn’t made noticeable improvements, your specialist may recommend a surgical procedure. Again, the specific type of operation is dependent on your personal situation, but your surgeon will likely recommend a decompressive operation to free the impinged structures, or a spinal fusion operation to re-stabilize the spinal column. Both procedures can be performed using a minimally invasive technique, which not only reduces your risk of complications, but speeds up your recovery time.

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