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Therapeutic Injections for Degenerative Disc Disease: Which Option is Best for Me?

Nov 08, 2022
Therapeutic Injections for Degenerative Disc Disease: Which Option is Best for Me?
Degenerative disc disease isn’t really a disease, but a condition in which your discs wear down over time, which happens to most of us as we age. If the degeneration is causing pain, here are your frontline treatment options.

As we grow older, structures in our body can change, which is certainly true of the discs in your spine. As they succumb to wear and tear, they can lose their shape and irritate nearby nerves, leading to back or neck pain.

While there isn’t much that we can do to turn back the hands of time when it comes to degenerative disc disease (DDD), there are ways in which our team here at Commonwealth Pain and Spine can make you more comfortable, starting with therapeutic injections.

Here’s a look at your options in therapeutic injections for DDD.

Degenerative disc disease basics

Your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae that are separated by 23 discs. These discs feature a tough outer layer called the annulus and a soft, jelly-like interior called the nucleus pulposus. These malleable discs not only separate your vertebrae, they act as shock absorbers along your spine and encourage movement between the bones.

As you grow older, your discs can lose moisture and become more brittle, causing them to flatten out, and making them more vulnerable to issues like herniated discs.

While DDD doesn’t always cause symptoms, if the degenerating discs begin to irritate nearby nerve roots, you can be left with a good deal of local pain, as well as pain and other symptoms (numbness and tingling) that radiate to your limbs. 

DDD tends to develop in most active discs, namely those in your neck and in your lower back. When nerve compression occurs in your neck, symptoms can radiate into your arms. If the DDD leads to nerve compression in your lumbar spine, symptoms can radiate to your legs. In either case, we group these radiating symptoms under radiculopathy.

Relieving your DDD pain

If you’re struggling with pain related to DDD, we use therapeutic injections as a frontline treatment option. There are several types of injections we can use, including:

Epidural steroid injections

With an epidural steroid injection, we release a steroid into the epidural space along your spine in the area where you’re feeling symptoms. The steroid tackles the inflammation irritating your nerve fibers.

Nerve blocks

If we identify a specific nerve or nerve root causing your symptoms, we can turn to a nerve block. The block contains the same ingredients as the epidural injection, but we inject the solution directly into the compromised nerve.

Trigger-point injections

If your DDD-related lower back pain or neck pain is causing muscle spasms in the area, we can also administer a trigger-point injection to release the muscle knots, providing you with further pain relief.

With epidural injections and nerve blocks along your spine, we use advanced imaging to ensure we target the right space or nerve.

When it comes to how long these injections provide relief, the answer varies from one patient to the next. Some of our patients find pain relief for weeks, while others enjoy months of pain-free movement.

As for which therapeutic injection is right for you, we give you a treatment recommendation after we’ve fully evaluated your DDD.

To get started, please make an appointment with one of our physical therapy experts at a location near you. We have offices in St. Matthews, Elizabethtown, Lexington, Crestview Hills, Owensboro, and London, Kentucky. Indiana offices are in Evansville, Vincennes, New Albany, Carrollton, and Jasper. We also serve patients in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio.