Degenerative Disc Disease: Is Laser Spine Surgery an Option?

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As we age, our bones start to weaken and we tend to experience more pain in the back and neck areas. Vertebral fractures and other disc-related problems start to appear, especially for people over the age of 35. Back pain and injury is also attributed to the kind of lifestyle we live. For example, frequent lifting of heavy items can lead to spine problems. All of these back-related symptoms are indicative of the degenerative disc disease.

What’s behind the degenerative disc disease?

When it comes to serious pain in the back and neck, a common reason for this is the degenerative disc disease. This condition often occurs as a result of aging, weakening bones and brittle discs because the amount of water and protein in the body’s cartilage is decreasing. The cartilage partially makes up the discs and joints in the vertebral column; thus, they are prone to wear and tear as degenerative changes occur over time. In short, the degenerative disc disease, medically known as spondylosis, refers to the gradual deterioration of the discs between the vertebrae.

How to diagnose it

The degenerative disc disease can be traced through an X-ray or MRI scan of the spine. When the results show a narrower disc space between the vertebrae, it is a sign of a herniated disc. This causes local pain around the affected area. Also another sign is water loss in the disc, which can be viewed through an MRI scan.

If you are experiencing back pain and neck pain, these symptoms may be caused by a degenerative disc disease. When it comes to posture, you may have a hunched over appearance as a sign of disc-related problems. You also become more prone to vertebral fractures because of disc degeneration of the weakening of bones.

Laser spine surgery as a possible treatment

Laser spine surgery involves the incision on the back from less than an inch to a couple of inches. The surgeon then removes the sources of the pain in the nerves through a process called ablation. The ends of the discs between vertebrae are lasered off in order to relieve the pressure that causes pain. Laser spine surgery takes a shorter time for the affected tissues to heal.

The good and the bad of laser spine surgery

laser spine surgeryBack pain is definitely excruciating and life changing; thus, laser spine surgery has become an ultimate option for sufferers of the degenerative disc disease. This form of treatment has been around since the 1980s, but not a lot of clinical studies have been made to review its effectiveness.  In Dr. Mark McLaughlin’s article “The Laser Myth in Spine Surgery”, he debunks the general view of lasers as the most accurate and powerful tools for cutting. Dr. McLaughlin claims that surgeries are performed better with a scalpel.

Proponents of laser spine surgery say that because of the surgery being minimally invasive, serious blood loss and scarring do not occur. Furthermore, laser spine surgery uses advanced technology to treat the spine without causing damage to the surrounding soft tissues. Computers are utilized to help in navigation and nerve monitoring that are proven helpful during these procedures. Patients can also expect less pain after the operation and quicker recovery.

If you are thinking about undergoing laser spine surgery, make sure to do research and find out if you do need it. Lansing Neurosurgery (www.lansingneurosurgery.com) offers plenty of patient resources, such as a Laser Surgery Q & A and Medical Pain Scale, which are great sources of information to learn more about your disease. Alternatively, see a pain specialist to find out the causes of your chronic back and neck pain. A precise diagnosis can be difficult to obtain; thus, a pain specialist can help you find the source of the problem. Surgery should also not be your first outright solution to the pain. Try out traditional treatments and medicines first and include exercise in your lifestyle.

Suggested treatments for mild cases

The possible treatments for the degenerative disc disease depend on different factors, such as the age, health, and the limitations caused by the symptoms. Patients suffering from this condition can try the following treatments, as appropriate.

  1. Rest in bed for a few days. However, too much bed rest can also make the condition worse as it can lead to stiffness and other complications.
  2. Take physical therapy. This is to help you relax the back and neck and relieve muscle tension and spasms. The body also becomes more flexible and regains its strength and range of motion.
  3. Get some exercise. Even though it may be difficult and painful to work out, it can actually be beneficial as you increase your strength. Stiffness and pain are also reduced. To be on the safe side, consult your physician first on the right type of exercise you can indulge in.
  4. Take some pain medication. When pain becomes unbearable, try some over-the-counter, prescribed, or injected medications for this disease.
  5. Visit a chiropractor. Chiropractors can treat your spine problems by adjusting your back and neck to properly align your spinal column.