Cervical Disc Degeneration


Cervical disc degeneration is a common cause of neck pain, frequently described as stiff neck. Cervical degenerative disc disease is less common than disc degeneration in the lumbar spine, since the neck is subjected to less torque and force. A fall or a twisting injury that affects the disc space can spur degeneration. Accumulated wear and tear on the disc can also lead to neck pain caused by disc degeneration.

Lumbar degenerative disc disease is not actually a disease, but a neck pain it causes can still be immense. Whether due to injury or a result of aging, lumbar degenerative disc disease can limit your activity; some people even need surgery.

Nerve openings in the spine become more narrow as discs are brought closer together due to a loss of water content. This water content can be lost due to disease or the result of aging. Since the water content is reduced, the discs can’t absorb shocks as they should, especially when jumping, running or walking, which results in stiff neck pain. Disc degeneration can also be caused by incorrect body movements, poor posture and general wear and tear.

Spinal Fusion Surgery with Autograft (the Patient’s Own Bone)

A procedure called a spinal fusion can be used to surgically treat degenerative disc disease in the lumbar spine. Using bone harvested from the patient’s own hip (autograft) and instrumentation such as rods and screws, this procedure fuses, or creates a bond between, two or more adjacent vertebrae. This is done to stabilize the spine and provide pain relief. Autograft has provided a historical biologic grafting option, but has limitations. Its results are inconsistent, and large amounts may be required since it reduces in size over time. Its harvesting requires a second surgical procedure with associated pain and risks.

Causes of Cervical Disc Degeneration

Degenerative disc disease is usually part of the aging process. Intervertebral discs can lose their flexibility, shock-absorbing characteristics and elasticity as we grow older. Degenerative disc disease can also stem from an injury to the back.

Diagnosis of Cervical Disc Degeneration

The diagnosis of degenerative disc disease begins with a physical examination of the body, with special attention paid to the back and lower extremities. Dr. Moza will examine your back for flexibility, range of motion, and the presence of certain signs that suggest that your nerve roots are being affected by degenerative changes in your back. This often involves testing the strength of your muscles and your reflexes to make sure that they are still working normally.
Dr. Moza, an Agoura Hills spine surgeon,, will often ask you to fill out a diagram that asks you where your symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness are occurring. X-rays or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be ordered.
Most people with lumbar degenerative disc disease may find relief through nonsurgical options, such as exercise or physical therapy. But for those who need surgery, spinal fusion is a proven choice.

Conservative Care

Not all patients with low back pain require surgery. In fact, more than 95% find symptom relief through non-surgical therapies, such as exercise, medication, physical therapy, and chiropractic care.