Degenerative Disk Disease Treatment | Loyola Medicine

Degenerative Disk Disease

Comprehensive Treatments for Bulging, Ruptured or Herniated Disks

The orthopaedic and neurosurgery specialists at Loyola Medicine’s spine program offer patients comprehensive medical and surgical options for the treatment of degenerative disk disease. Loyola takes an integrated approach to treating all forms of this disorder, including spinal arthritis and spinal problems such as bulging, ruptured or herniated disks.

The vertebrae (bones) of your spine are separated by small, spongy disks. These soft and compressible disks act as shock absorbers for the spine and help you bend and twist your body. Degenerative disk disease occurs when the normal wear and tear on a disk causes it to bulge out of place, tear or break. The problem can occur from injuries or a back strain, such as happens after lifting something heavy.

If one or more of your spinal disks are damaged or bulge out of place, your vertebrae will rub together or pinch a nerve, causing pain, numbness or weakness; this is sometimes called sciatica. You might feel symptoms in the back or in another body part that is connected to an associated nerve.

Degenerative disk disease is most likely to affect your lumbar spine (lower back) or cervical spine (in your neck); it is erroneously referred to as a slipped disk.

Why Choose Loyola for Degenerative Disk Disease Treatment?

At Loyola, you will find a team of experienced specialists who treat you with compassion. Your orthopaedic spine specialist works closely with neurologists, neurosurgeons, pain management experts and physical therapists to ensure your quick and complete recovery. Loyola’s surgeons also provide the latest intraoperative imaging technology, referring to real-time 3D images of your spine and its associated nerves in the operating room.

How is Degenerative Disk Disease Diagnosed?

Degenerative disk disease is diagnosed with a medical history and physical exam. Your Loyola orthopaedic surgeon may request an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT scan (computed tomography) in order to understand your condition more fully. 

What are the Treatment Options for Degenerative Disk Disease?

In general, patients with degenerative disk problems do not require surgery. You will most likely be able to reduce pain and resume your regular activities with conservative treatment methods, including: 

  • Applications of heat or ice
  • Exercise programs
  • Modification of regular activities
  • Pain or anti-inflammation medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections

Spine surgery may be advised for people who have nerve damage that is getting worse, or if pain or a loss of motion hasn’t improved after several weeks of nonsurgical treatment. Surgical options might include:

  • Diskectomy — Removing all or part of a herniated disk
  • Fusion surgery — Holding a part of the spine permanently in place
  • Laminectomy and laminotomy — Removing thin parts of your vertebrae
  • Percutaneous diskectomy — A less-invasive version of the diskectomy

Your Loyola healthcare team will discuss the risks and benefits of any surgical procedure with you prior to your surgery. Loyola’s surgeons are experts in their field and do everything possible to limit complications from surgery.