Degenerative Disc Conditions

It’s natural for daily wear and tear on your back and neck to cause degeneration. But when spine pain prevents you from living life to the fullest, it’s time to get treatment from the specialists at Henry Ford Health.

Degenerative disc care: Why choose Henry Ford?

People throughout southeast and south central Michigan choose Henry Ford for their spine care because we offer:

  • Experienced team: Our team includes neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, pain management physicians and physiatrists. This range of expertise ensures we can treat any spine condition.
  • Extensive network: As part of the renowned Henry Ford network, our spine care program connects patients with a range of services for total back and neck health.
  • Innovative technology: Our spine specialists use the latest techniques to treat back and neck pain, including robotic-assisted surgery and image-guided injections.

What are degenerative disc conditions?

The bones of your spine (vertebrae) are separated by spongy pads called intervertebral discs. Over time, discs can wear out and lose elasticity. Normal aging can cause disc degeneration, as can spine injuries and infections.

The most common types of degenerative disc conditions include:

  • Bulging disc: A weak or misshapen disc can protrude into the spinal column.
  • Degenerative disc disease: Discs are the cartilage cushions for the spinal joints. Disc deterioration can lead to spondylosis, or spinal arthritis.
  • Herniated disc: Also called ruptured disc, a tear in a disc’s outer wall can cause the inner gel-like fluid to leak into the spinal column.

Degenerative disc conditions can lead to other spine issues, including sciatica, spinal stenosis or spinal curvature. In addition, if the discs wear away and cause adjacent vertebrae to rub together, small bone spurs may develop.

Degenerative disc symptoms

Degenerative disc conditions may not cause any problems. However, symptoms can develop if a torn or misshapen disc presses on a spinal nerve root or causes spinal instability.

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Radiculopathy, or radiating pain along a nerve into the arms or legs
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Stiffness

Degenerative disc diagnosis

Henry Ford spine specialists can usually diagnose degenerative disc conditions by performing a thorough physical exam and assessing the location and severity of your symptoms.

In some cases, we may do imaging exams to rule out other causes of spine pain such as fractures or spinal tumors. X-rays, MRIs and CT scans are available at any of our Henry Ford Radiology & Imaging centers.

Nonsurgical degenerative disc treatment

Most cases of herniated discs, bulging discs and degenerative disc disease can be managed without surgery. At-home treatments like rest, ice and pain medication can reduce discomfort and inflammation.

Our board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists can also recommend additional nonsurgical treatments, including:

  • Integrative medicine: We combine traditional medicine with holistic healing techniques to relieve back and neck pain.
  • Pain management: Innovative treatments like epidural steroid injections can reduce pain while you rehabilitate.
  • Physical therapy: Specialized spine therapists at Henry Ford help improve strength, flexibility and body mechanics.

Learn more about your options for nonsurgical spine treatments at Henry Ford.

Degenerative disc surgery

If your degenerative disc condition doesn’t improve after a year or more of conservative treatment, it may be time to consider surgery. We can perform some disc procedures using minimally invasive techniques. Minimally invasive surgery can lead to faster recovery, less pain and shorter hospital stays.

We offer:

  • Laminectomy: Your surgeon removes bone spurs or part of a vertebra to relieve pressure on spinal nerve roots.
  • Microdiscectomy: Through a tiny incision (less than one inch), your surgeon uses a specialized microscope and surgical tools to remove part of a damaged disc.
  • Spinal fusion: This procedure fuses two or more vertebrae together to maintain the spine’s stability and alignment. Fusion can reduce pain caused by movement if you have spinal arthritis.

Learn more about your options for spine surgery at Henry Ford.

Take the next step

Back pain doesn’t have to keep you from the activities you love. Request an in-person or virtual appointment with a member of our spine care team.

Take the next step

Let us help you schedule an appointment, call (800) 436-7936.


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