What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Bones in the spine, called vertebral bodies, stack on top of each other to form the spinal column. Between these bones sit “discs” which act as cushions or shock absorbing pads when you move. As you age, these discs sustain wear-and-tear injuries and may start to breakdown, become compressed or even bulge out to one side of the spinal column. This is often referred to as degenerative disc disease.

Degenerative disc disease is commonly treated by spine surgeons at Orlando Orthopaedic Center using both surgical and non-surgical methods. A majority of patients treated at Orlando Orthopaedic Center report an improvement in their condition.

What Are Common Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms?

Aging, arthritis and trauma all play a contributing role in the onset of degenerative disc disease. The main symptom you will feel is pain; and the discomfort can be felt either suddenly after an injury or gradually increase over time.

Pain associated with degenerative disc disease for most individuals may include:

  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Burning
  • Numbness and pressure in the spinal region

Typically, degenerative disc disease is seen in people 40-50 years of age, active lifestyle individuals.

How Do You Treat Degenerative Disc Disease?

Patients diagnosed with degenerative disc disease may initially be prescribed rest, physical therapy, massages, pain and/or anti-inflammatory medications. As a more invasive option, steroids and local anesthetics can be injected around the site of the problem. Treatment options such as these are usually recommended before surgery is discussed.

What Are Options for Degenerative Disc Disease Surgery?

Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion (ACDF) 

The ACDF procedure has been the most common surgical procedure used to treat degenerative disc disease in the cervical spine. Using bone grafts and instrumentation such as metal plates and screws, this procedure fuses two or more adjacent vertebrae, ideally stabilizing the segment and providing relief.


A foraminotomy is used to remove the disc fragments, overgrown ligaments and bone spurs from the neural foramen, compression of the spinal nerve. This increases the space around the neural foramen and relieves the compression of the spinal nerves.


A laminotomy is a procedure where the lamina, the flattened or arched part of the vertebral arch, is removed in smaller parts on one or both sides of the spine creating small holes between the laminae.

Who Should Consider Surgery?

Surgery should be considered for individuals who have failed conservative treatment with medications and injections, or those with symptoms that are so severe that they are starting to lose significant function and are at risk for permanent nerve damage.

All risks and benefits of spine surgery should be considered before making a decision. The spine surgeon will discuss all available options and treatments.

What Are the Results of Degenerative Disc Disease Surgery?

Surgery is successful in relieving back or neck pain in a majority of patients. Majority of patients with acute or severe back or neck pain can benefit more from ACDF, foraminotomy or laminotomy.