A Timeline of Degenerative Spinal Diseases

Degenerative diseases cause damage to the spine over time, resulting in loss of function, discomfort, mobility impairments, and more. If you’ve been diagnosed with one of these conditions, it’s important to understand how the disease will progress and when surgery is appropriate. Here, New Jersey Neck & Back Institute, P.C., breaks down the progression of common degenerative spine diseases to help you know what to expect.

Degenerative Disc Disease

As its name suggests, degenerative disc disease develops due to aging. As we get older, the fluid found in each vertebral disc begins to dry out. This results in weakened discs that are less effective in cushioning the vertebrae, causing pain in the back and sometimes throughout the body. But in some cases, pain is mild or nonexistent. Failing to seek timely surgical treatment may cause:

  • Limited mobility
  • Spinal instability
  • Increased pain and stiffness
  • Bone spurs that press against nerve roots

May lead or evolve into other conditions listed below:

Radiculopathy

This condition can be the result of one of the many conditions of the spine caused by degenerative spine disease and it is caused by pressure of the spinal nerves within the spine. Compression of the nerves in the neck will cause symptoms in the arms, whereas, compression of the nerves in the low back will cause symptoms in the lower extremities. The leg symptoms are otherwise commonly known as sciatica.

Surgery is generally recommended if symptoms are severe and can also be considered before they become detrimental to your quality of life. When left untreated, additional health complications can develop, such as:

  • Pain worsening over time
  • Resistance to pain management treatment
  • Nerve damage that causes weakness, loss of sensation, tingling, and more

Spinal Stenosis

This degenerative spine disease occurs when spaces within the spine narrow. This places pressure on nerves and causes pain that travels up and down the spine. At first, patients may experience sciatica, weakness, numbness, and other symptoms. These initial signs might seem minor, but it’s essential to seek treatment right away. Without surgery at the appropriate time, spinal stenosis can cause permanent damage, such as:

  • Injuries to the spinal cord
  • Decreased control over the bladder or bowels
  • Poor balance
  • Loss of coordination
  • Myelopathy
  • Paralysis

Herniated Discs

Herniated discs occur when a disc’s soft, gel-like contents rupture through its outer ring due to injuries or the natural effects of aging. This is certainly painful, and if the disc pinches against spinal nerves, weakness and numbness may also accompany the condition. While physical therapy is often recommended, surgery to remove or repair the herniated disc is beneficial for those with severe or progressive symptoms or for those whose symptoms don’t respond to conservative treatment such as physical therapy or injections. As the condition progresses, patients often experience:

  • Sciatica/Radiculopathy
  • Permanent nerve damage
  • Incontinence
  • Saddle anesthesia, or the loss of sensation in the legs and buttocks

When to See a Surgeon

If you suffer from a degenerative spine disease and have yet to find relief, it’s time to consider surgery. Named a New Jersey Top Doc in 2018, New Jersey Neck & Back Institute, P.C.’s Dr. Sandro LaRocca has been board-certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and fellowship-trained in complex spinal reconstruction. To learn more about the progression of your degenerative spine disease and the benefits of surgery, call 609-896-0020 to schedule an appointment today. Dr. LaRocca is currently accepting new patients at three locations in Lawrenceville, Toms River, and Mount Laurel, New Jersey, for your convenience.