Degenerative disc pain is so common that nearly everyone will experience it. Back pain in general is the most common complaint that brings patients to Integrated Pain Consultants. Our spinal discs degenerate as we get older because we depend on our backs to do most of the heavy lifting throughout our life. Poor posture and a sedentary lifestyle (particularly at work for many of us) contribute to the discs in our spine degenerating faster. It’s estimated that over 90 percent of people will have some degree of disc degeneration by the time they’re 60 years old. However, just because degenerative disc pain is “normal” doesn’t mean you have to live with it.
Degenerative disc pain is routinely called degenerative disc disease, but the reality is that it isn’t a “disease” at all. It will likely take many years for the medical language and literature to catch up to this reality, but in the meantime patients can enjoy some peace of mind knowing that their back isn’t really “diseased.” Getting an x-ray of the back and being diagnosed with something like multi-level degenerative disc disease (DDD) can be disheartening, especially when a doctor doesn’t further explain what this so-called degenerative disc disease is and what can be done to relieve the pain.
Studies have shown that the more imaging a patient gets for musculoskeletal pains, the more disability and dysfunction they will be diagnosed with. Doctors use images to see if there is any serious pathology happening, but this is regularly followed with patients not getting consultations to explain what the images do show—degenerative disc disease. The reality is that degenerative disc pain is a very common part of the aging process and happens to nearly everyone. However, having the word “disease” as part of the diagnosis can be understandably worrisome for patients. That’s why it’s important to work with a pain specialist who can help you understand the reality of your degenerative disc pain and what you can do about it.
Research has shown that more imaging of the back leads to more back surgeries, even though surgery is just one of many potential treatments available for degenerative disc pain. Patients may be able to delay or avoid back surgery with an epidural steroid injection, spinal cord stimulation, radiofrequency ablation, or facet injection. You can find out more about degenerative disc disease and options for degenerative disc pain management by calling Integrated Pain Consultants at (480) 626-2552.