Degenerative Disc Disease Disc Replacement

degenerative disc disease disc replacement

Degenerative disc disease is a common condition that can cause significant pain and discomfort. As you age, the intervertebral discs, which cushion the vertebrae in your spine, can wear down. This often leads to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. In some cases, disc replacement surgery may be recommended as a treatment option for degenerative disc disease.

What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is a condition resulting from the natural aging process.

Spinal discs act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae. Each disc is composed of two main parts: a tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and a soft, gel-like center known as the nucleus pulposus.

Healthy spinal discs maintain their hydration and flexibility, contributing to factors such as:

  • Overall spinal stability
  • Range of motion
  • The ability to absorb impacts from everyday activities like walking, lifting, and bending

Over time, the discs in your spine lose their springiness and water content, which can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Pain. This can occur in the back or neck and may radiate to the arms or legs, depending on the disc’s location.
  • Stiffness. Reduced flexibility and mobility in the spine.
  • Nerve compression. Worn discs can lead to herniation or bulging, compressing nearby nerves and causing tingling or numbness.

Treatments For Degenerative Disc Disease

Before considering surgery, several non-surgical treatments are often recommended to manage the symptoms of degenerative disc disease:

  • Exercises to strengthen the muscles around the spine, improve flexibility, and reduce pain.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants to help manage pain and inflammation.
  • Corticosteroid injections can provide temporary relief by reducing inflammation around the affected nerves.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, practicing good posture, and avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain.

What Is Disc Replacement Surgery?

When non-surgical treatments do not provide sufficient relief, disc replacement surgery might be an option. This procedure involves removing the damaged intervertebral disc and replacing it with an artificial disc.

Depending on the location of the damaged disc, this surgery can be performed on the cervical spine (neck) or lumbar spine (lower back).

When you undergo artificial disc replacement, the surgeon removes the damaged disc, leaving a temporary space between the vertebrae. The surgeon then places an artificial disc in this space. The new artificial disc functions much like a natural disc, acting as a shock absorber and spacer, allowing the vertebrae above and below to move freely.

The increased movement between the vertebrae provides a better range of motion in your neck or lower back.

The Disc Replacement Procedure

If you and your doctor decide that disc replacement surgery is the best option for you, here’s what you can expect from the procedure:


You’ll be given general anesthesia, so you’ll be asleep and won’t feel any pain during the surgery. Depending on the location of the damaged disc, the surgeon will make an incision either in the front of your neck for cervical disc replacement or in your abdomen for lumbar disc replacement. The surgeon will then carefully remove the damaged disc from your spine and insert the artificial disc into the space left by the removed disc. Finally, the surgeon will close the incision with sutures or staples.


You’ll likely need to stay in the hospital for a few days so that your medical team can monitor your initial recovery. During this time, you may need to wear a neck or back brace for support and stability as your body heals.

Physical therapy will be an important part of your recovery. A physical therapist will guide you through exercises designed to restore strength and mobility to your spine. Recovery times can differ from person to person, but most people can expect to return to their normal activities within a few weeks to a few months. Your doctor will give you specific guidelines based on your individual recovery progress.

Talk to a Doctor about Degenerative Disc Disease Disc Replacement

Degenerative disc disease can significantly impact your quality of life, but there are effective treatments available. While non-surgical options are often the first line of defense, disc replacement surgery may provide relief when other treatments fail.

If you’re wondering if disc replacement is right for you, take the first step – schedule an appointment today!

Axion Newsletter