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Degenerative Disc Disease

Spine Center

The doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center specialize in all available evidence-based treatments for degenerative disc disease – both medical and surgical. At the Spine Center, we offer our patients the most advanced diagnostic and treatment technologies and techniques, including specialized spine imaging.

When surgery is required, our skilled team of surgeons often can perform less-invasive procedures, which reduce recovery time.

About Degenerative Disc Disease


Degenerative disc disease – or osteoarthritis of the spine – is a common condition in which the jelly-like substance that makes up the cushioned discs between the vertebrae dries out and breaks down. This condition can lead to bulging or protrusion of the disc as well as bone spur (osteophyte) formation.

Degenerative disc disease can cause both back and neck pain, as well as put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, possibly impacting nerve function. This condition is usually related to age, but sudden injuries can also start the degeneration process. 

Symptoms and Diagnosis
Patients might experience pain, numbness, or tingling, which can get worse with movements such as bending and reaching. Sometimes there are no symptoms.

If we suspect that a patient has degenerative disc disease, we’ll conduct a physical examination and order spine imaging studies. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-ray, and computed tomography (CT) scans are often used to diagnose degenerative disc disease.

Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease


After diagnosis, we’ll make sure a patient sees the right experts to treat his or her unique situation. Our experienced multidisciplinary team of spine specialists treats degenerative disc disease with therapies that include:

  • Spine rehabilitation
  • Anti-inflammation medications
  • Spinal injections
  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback
  • Discectomy, the surgical removal of all or part of a disc, often performed in conjunction with surgery to fuse the affected vertebrae (spinal fusion)
  • Decompression surgery, a procedure in which tiny pieces of disc material and/or vertebrae are removed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves
  • Disc replacement, the surgical replacement of a native disc with an artificial disc

We’ll create a comprehensive treatment plan that helps patients achieve the maximum relief from their symptoms.

Clinical Trials

As an academic medical center, UT Southwestern is at the forefront of spine research. Our patients have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials aimed at improving the treatment of degenerative disc disease.

Talk with your doctor to see if a clinical trial might be right for you.

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