Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease treatment offered by a top Rochester Hills Pain Management Doctor


While degenerative disc disease is one of the most common reasons for lower back and neck pain, it is also a condition that is relatively misunderstood. Degenerative disc disease describes pain symptoms as well as radiating numbness and weakness resulting from a degenerated disc of the spinal column. Even though this definition sounds quite simple, patients who receive this diagnosis are often left wondering exactly what it means to them specifically.

A diagnosis of “degenerative disc disease” (DDD) can cause a great deal of anxiety and concern because it sounds very threatening and progressive. Technically speaking, it is not a disease per se, nor is it necessarily degenerative.

Causes and Risk Factors of Degenerative Disc Disease

As part of the normal aging process, discs located between the vertebrae break down. These normal changes can be caused by:

  • Loss of fluid: Quantity of disc fluid decreases which makes it thinner causing spinal compression and the onset of chronic pain.
  • Changes in disc structure: Very small cracks and/or tears develop in the outer layer (annulus fibrous) of the disc. The soft, gelatinous, cushioning material located within the inner part of the disc (inucleus pulposus) works its way through these cracks and/or tears causing a bulging or ruptured disc. It can also break into tiny fragments.
  • Acute injuries: This includes slips and fall accidents, which can hasten the progression of degenerative disc disease.

Degeneration of the discs tends to occur more frequently in the following groups:

  • Obese patients
  • Those whose jobs involve strenuous physical labor
  • Smokers

Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease graphicThe vast majority of degenerative disc disease patients can be effectively treated with conservative care, which is less invasive and non-surgical. This includes pain killers, steroidal medications (oral formats and/or epidural injections), strengthening exercises, and physical therapy.

Surgical interventions are considered to be a last resort if patients have not realized relief from their chronic pain, after a minimum of six months of conservative care. It is also used if they are significantly constrained in the performance of their everyday activities.

Recent Research Study Shows Step Cell Therapy Helps DDD

Recently, Australian researchers from University of Queensland set out to ascertain if tissue engineering approaches, utilizing stem cells in combination with an advanced system of delivery, might enhance generation of functional fibrocartilage. This study was published in Biomaterials.

These medical scientists developed a system of injectable hydrogel using hyaluronic acid and polyethylene glycol (gel) as a base for the preparation. The purpose of the injections was to induce cartilage formation in mesnchymal precursor cells. Study findings indicated that stem cell therapy has the potential of causing the regeneration of intervertebral discs.

A recent study, published in the July 2013 online issue of Biomaterials, explains the design of a new biomaterial capable of delivering a booster shot of reparative cells to the nucleus pulposus. This process aids in the relief of back pain associated with degenerative disc disease.

Earlier laboratory research indicated that re-implantation of nucleus pulposus cells or stem cells may potentially delay the progression of disc degeneration. The Duke University research team’s strategy of delivery maintains the cells’ position and mimics laminin (a protein naturally found within nucleus pulposus tissue). While these findings are preliminary, they may have a positive impact on future cell therapy. However, additional research is still required.


University Pain Clinic of Rochester offers a number of innovative treatment and procedure options to reduce the pain from your Degenerative Disc Disease. Use the form of phone number on this page to contact us and schedule an appointment.

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