About Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease
Lumbar intervertebral discs are designed to cushion the vertebral bones in our spine to prevent compression of nerves and maintain our vertical stature. Degeneration of these discs is characterized by a decrease in water content, loss of height, and frequently herniations or protrusions from the disc space into spaces normally occupied by the nerves and spinal cord. Disc degeneration is often associated with spinal instability, and bone spurs may subsequently grow in an attempt to stabilize the spine. These bone spurs if large enough can also compress adjacent nerves and structures. Lumbar degenerative disc disease can also be caused by fissuring of the annulus fibrosus, a ligamentous-like structure that encapsulates the disc. This can result from torsional strain, overuse, or an acute disc herniation. Certain motions can place a high amount of pressure on the disc which may cause it to herniate. Disc material is very irritating to neighboring nerves and may lead to worsening pain and inflammation.
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Symptoms of Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease
Symptoms of lumbar degenerative disc disease include axial low back pain, possibly with radiation into the lower extremities depending on the type of disc injury or degeneration. Symptoms frequently overlap with lumbar stenosis or herniated discs. Patients may also develop muscle spasms and deep achy pain that is made worse with activity. Oftentimes, degenerated discs place excess strain on neighboring lumbar facet joints which then can develop arthritic changes and lead to worsening pain.
Treatments of Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease
Procedural treatments for lumbar disc disease can include epidural steroid or cortisone injections under live imaging guidance via a transforaminal or interlaminar approach. The location of the injection is decided by the distribution of symptoms and imaging findings. One of the most efficacious and evidence based treatments for degenerative disc disease which we are now able to offer is intradiscal regenerative medicine therapies. Using our cutting edge Regenexx platform, we are able to treat damaged discs with platelet-rich plasma (PRP), platelet lysate, and bone marrow concentrate containing stem cells. Although this treatment is still considered experimental, we have seen amazing improvement in our patients pain and function. Additionally, repeat MRI findings have shown resolution and improvement of disc health after Regenexx procedures. Additionally, as we have discussed above that degenerative disc disease is often accompanied by other pain generators (pinched nerves, inflamed lumbar facet joints, and inflamed muscles), when performing regenerative treatments for the lumbar spine, we make sure to treat the spine segments as functional units, making sure to address not just the degenerated discs, but all the surrounding structures that may be affected and damaged as well. By approaching our spine treatments in this comprehensive manner, we have been able to achieve dramatic improvements in our patients' symptoms while foregoing the need for invasive surgery.
If you are interested to learn more about Regenexx and whether you qualify for treatment, please reach out to Ospina Medical, located in Midtown Manhattan in New York City to speak with one of our Regenexx providers today.