About Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common problems we help patients manage. It refers to symptoms that occur anywhere in the spine that is caused by wear and tear on a spinal disc. As we age, the discs in the neck and mid/lower back can deteriorate. This can be due to aging, overuse, trauma, or years of performing certain motions or movements. This deterioration, otherwise known as degeneration, can begin to cause a cascade of problems leading to neck and back pain and mobility issues. Dr. Kendall Carll is a board-certified spine surgeon who deploys innovative and proven techniques to treat degenerative disc disease. With a thorough examination, he will provide a conservative treatment plan that helps manage the condition to reduce flare-ups and diminish daily pain.
"I recently experienced a pinched nerve that severely affected my ability to use my right hand. I contacted Dr. Carll who immediately went to work on my behalf. Knowing that this was a time sensitive situation Dr. Carll went out of his way to ensure that I received the appropriate MRIs, CAT scans, and nerve studies to properly diagnose my situation. After reviewing all the test Dr. Carll exhibited true professionalism and integrity by referring me out to Dr. Patty Young (I am so thankful for your referral) who specialized in the surgery that I would need. Dr. Carll could’ve chosen to operate because I had several degenerative disc, however he chose ethics over profit. Dr. Carll is a true professional that will put your health over profit! When it comes to your health there’s nothing more important than having a doctor that you can trust to be professional and ethical. Thank you Dr. Carll for providing me with both!"- K.H. / Google / Aug 29, 2018
"Dr. Carll and his staff are awesome! Coordinated care with with my imaging, pain management, physical therapy and the result of my surgery has given me my life back."- J. / Healthgrades / Oct 02, 2020
"Dr. Carll and his staff are so kind and professional and make everything so easy for you to understand. Dr. Carll really cares about his patients and I can see that! Literally every day was a risk for me and he has saved my life and taken away all of the pain I have felt for many years. I absolutely cannot tell you enough about how you need to come see him. Even if you have been to other surgeons, just go get his professional opinion."- J.B. / Google / Sep 04, 2020
"Dr.Carll is an amazing back surgeon. He performed a spinal fusion surgery on me and I am very pleased with the results. His staff is amazing, friendly and always helpful. The hospital where he performed the surgery was also amazing! The staff took great care of me and was friendly helpful and caring at all times. I would recommend Dr. Carll to any one of my loved one, friends, even strangers!!!! ALWAYS do your research before picking a back surgeon. Dr. Carll explained everything in a way I could understand & i can say with confidence that he truly cares about his patients!!!!"- Anonymous / Healthgrades / Feb 28, 2020
"My name is Mark Walter. Doctor Carll and his staff are simply the best when it comes to spine and back care, bar none ! Ive had a total of 6 spine surgeries to date. My first one was done by a different doctor and it failed. I found Dr Carll after exhaustive research and countless inital consultations with numerous other doctors and I'm so glad I found him. He has since then performed five additional spine surgeries on me. I was badly screwed up to say the least and he literally gave me my life back. I highly recommend him to everyone including my own family members, one of which he also done surgery on and like me she was totally thrilled with him and the results. His staff are hands down the best in the business and the only team that Ive NEVER had a single complaint or issue with !!! This man knows his stuff and sets the standard other doctors and surgeons only dream of achieving. No games and no lies. Just kindness, honesty, and most importantly, he treats people like his friends and neighbors and not an ATM machine like so many doctors do now days. Give his office a call. Its the best thing you will ever do for your spine & your own peace of mind."- F. / Google / Nov 07, 2019
How Our Discs Work
Your spine consists of a column of 33 stacked and interlocking bones called vertebrae. The top 24 of these bones are separated by a series of gel-like intervertebral discs. These spinal discs are like jelly donuts, with softer centers encased within tougher, banded exteriors. In the spinal section near the pelvic region, the last nine vertebrae are more or less fused together and don’t have discs, since they don’t require the ability to bend or twist. When we are born, each vertebral disc is composed of about 80% water, which gives them their spongy quality and allows them to function as shock absorbers for the spinal column. As we age, the disc fluid begins to dehydrate and degenerate, leading to loss of motion between vertebral disc. Further degeneration occurs once the mobility is limited or lost.
Causes of Disc Pain
The pain from degenerative disc disease is typically caused when the outer section of the disc (called the annulus) bulges and pinches, or squeezes a nearby nerve or the spinal cord itself. If the disc completely ruptures, the leaking gel-like substances inside the center of the disc can stimulate an inflammatory immune response from the body, irritating the nerve branch or the spinal cord and causing pain. As discs leak, they also can physically compress like a balloon that is flattened, shrinking the space between each vertebra that allows the vertebrae or the spinal processes to rub against each other, causing sharp pain.
The process of disc degeneration is a natural part of aging, not disease driven, despite the name “degenerative disc disease.” Most people over age 60 have some level of disc degeneration in the cervical region and other regions of the spine. The physical effects of this disc degeneration vary, causing minimal pain for some and significant pain for others. In either case, degenerated discs that have ruptured will not heal themselves, so treatment of some type is necessary.
The most common symptom of degenerative disc disease is a slow, dull ache. The defective disc can also generate painful flares when the back is under stress. Degenerative discs can cause muscle spasms or radiate pain in either the arms or legs, depending on the location of the disc. The pain can dissipate with certain movements or body positions, such as reclining or lying down.
To understand the degree of degenerative disc disease, most physicians will request MRI or a CT scan. These scans can provide an image that helps pinpoint which disc might be responsible for the pain. However, some studies have shown that even young adults can have some level of disc degeneration and not experience any pain. One other diagnostic measure is the discogram. During a discogram, a physician uses a special needle to inject dye directly into the soft center of one or more discs. The dye allows the doctor to see any abnormality in a disc's exterior, which can then be seen on an x-ray or CT scan. Some doctors use a discogram before spinal fusion surgery to help identify which discs need to be removed, but many doctors rely mainly on MRI and CT scans to diagnose disc problems and guide treatment.
The primary focus in treating degenerative disc disease is pain management. After your consultation with Dr. Carll, a combination of approaches can be taken to help minimize pain and offer relief. It is rare that a single treatment approach is used, and there is no set formula that works for everyone. Some nonsurgical treatments include:
- Over-the-counter pain medications
- Prescription pain medications
- Epidural steroid injections (ESIs) into the space surrounding the disc
- Physical therapy
Most patients are able to find relief from pain using a combination of the above nonsurgical approaches, but for some patients, surgery is the best option. Rarely is open spine surgery required to address degenerative disc disease. The most common option is a type of minimally invasive surgery, which can be performed on an outpatient basis. This allows patients to benefit from a shorter recovery and subjects the body to less trauma. The specific surgical approach for degenerative disc disease will depend on the severity of deterioration and the location of the disc(s). Some of the surgical approaches involve partially or completely removing the affected disc and stabilizing the affected area of the spine by fusing the vertebrae together. In some cases, especially when the defective disc is in the neck, surgeons can insert artificial discs to preserve flexibility. The best approach for addressing degenerative disc disease will be decided based on your lifestyle goals.
Reduce Your Back Pain
Dr. Carll specializes in helping patients with degenerative disc issues find solutions that work. Starting with a carefully planned, nonsurgical approach he will help find ways to get you back to your active life with less pain. As an experienced board-certified spine surgeon, Dr. Carll uses the latest advancements in minimally invasive surgery. We invite you to call our spine center and schedule your appointment today.