Learn about the signs and symptoms of degenerative disk disease.Learn more »
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Learn the follow-up care for degenerative disk disease.Learn more »
Lehigh Valley Health Network’s physical medicine specialists (physiatrists) often can help you manage the pain associated with degenerative disk disease. They focus on restoring function through physical therapy and other conservative measures, including steroid shots and anti-inflammatory and pain medications. Chiropractic treatment is another option to explore.
If you have severe pain, numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, or immobility that does not get better, you may need to see a surgeon who specializes in spinal surgeries. If you need surgery to relieve back pain, our neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons offer some of the most advanced surgical techniques, including:
Anterior lumbar fusion fuses vertebrae to help ease your lower back and leg pain. It is generally done through an abdominal incision. Depending on how many vertebrae are fused, your spinal fusion surgery may take from three to eight hours. You will spend two to five days in the hospital after this surgery.
In artificial disk replacement, the surgeon inserts a quarter-sized artificial disk – composed of high-density plastic between two metal plates – in place of the removed disk. Grooved teeth on the plates' outer sides keep the disk in place, as does the natural pressure of the spine.
This artificial disk helps the spine maintain its natural flexibility and shock absorption. The procedure reduces back and neck pain, recovery times and hospital stays associated with back surgery. You can expect to spend about one day in the hospital following this procedure.
Cervical fusion fuses vertebrae to help ease neck and arm pain. Cervical fusion usually is performed through an incision in the front of the neck and generally takes from one to four hours, depending on how many vertebrae are fused. You typically will spend one day in the hospital after this procedure.
Posterior lumbar fusion fuses vertebrae to help ease your lower back and leg pain. Spinal fusion is performed through an incision in your back, and depending on how many vertebrae are fused, the surgery may take from three to eight hours. You will likely be in the hospital for two to three days.
When a surgeon performs spinal fusion, he may need to put structures in place – called spinal instrumentation – to help steady the spine while the bone fuses. This fills the space left by the removed tissue. Recovery time depends on the type of surgery (anterior lumbar fusion, cervical fusion, posterior lumbar fusion, scoliosis surgery) that is used in conjunction with spinal instrumentation.