Degenerative disc disease is the most common cause of low back and neck pain, causing weakness, numbness, low-level chronic pain, and episodes of severe shooting pain that can radiate down the arms and legs.
Patients looking to avoid back surgery often struggle to find treatment options that manage the pain of degenerative disc disease, especially since their natural inclination is to cease movement and activities that cause pain, which can actually worsen symptoms.
However, there are treatment options for managing degenerative disc disease pain without surgery. These treatments often work best when patients utilize multiple methods to find relief.
Medications for Pain Management
Patients with degenerative disc disease commonly progress from over-the-counter (OTC) oral medications to prescription oral medications when their OTC treatments no longer prove effective at managing pain. When oral prescription medications lose effectiveness, patients progress to injections at the pain site.
Patients using any medication regularly should consult their healthcare provider for guidance. Continued use of even OTC medications can cause damage to the kidneys and liver.
Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are all OTC medications that temporarily relieve inflammation, while acetaminophen interferes with the pain signals sent to the brain.
Pain too severe for OTC medications may need prescription muscle relaxants or narcotic painkillers. While these medications treat intense pain, they’re intended only for acute pain, not long-lasting chronic pain. In addition, prescription painkillers are often addictive and need moderation under the guidance of the prescribing physician.
Epidural Steroid Injections (ESIs)
ESIs are injections targeting the source of pain. Injected directly into the space where the patient experiences the most pain, ESIs decrease inflammation and block nerve pain. ESIs can relieve pain but do not change the underlying problem. They’re often used in conjunction with physical therapy.
If a patient’s degenerative disc disease results in a pinched nerve, a physician can administer an injection directly into the nerve or nerve root, blocking the pain signal and reducing inflammation.
Peripheral nerve blocks are injected into the nerves around the injured area of the spine. However, nerve root blocks are injected directly into the nerve root that’s pinched or compressed.
Non-Medicinal Treatment Options
Patients seeking relief from chronic pain due to degenerative disc disease have several pain management options that do not include medications. The most popular non-medicinal treatment options include:
- Physical therapy
- Heat and ice therapy
- Muscle manipulation and chiropractic care
- Massage therapy
Most patients pursuing therapies and treatment options outside traditional medications see remarkable success when combining treatments. The best treatment plans for degenerative disc disease are multi-functional and work to minimize pain, stabilize the spine, and maintain mobility.
Many patients are exploring regenerative medicine for managing their chronic pain resulting from degenerative disc disease. However, this alternative therapy can also offer more than pain management. Mesenchymal stem cells have healing properties to regenerate damaged tissues and help promote healing on top of pain management.
This post was written by a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for back pain, also known as stem cell therapy for degenerative disc disease. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.