Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is a condition caused by wear and tear on one or more discs in the spine over time. As degenerative changes occur in the discs, the damage can lead to pain, nerve compression, and spinal instability.

Dr. Franco Vigna has extensive experience with diagnosing and treating degenerative disc disease as a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and fellowship-trained spine surgeon. During his training, he learned disc replacement techniques before they were approved in the United States. He has also been involved in implant development for spine surgery and has presented at both national and international meetings.

Though Dr. Vigna is a highly-skilled spine surgeon, his goal is not to convince every patient that they need surgery. He and our team at reVive Spine Center offer a wide range of nonsurgical options to treat conditions like degenerative disc disease. Surgery is considered when more conservative treatments do not allow patients to resume the lifestyles they enjoy. Our #1 goal is to provide relief from pain and other symptoms caused by spine conditions, whether that involves surgery or not.

Degenerative Disc Disease: Causes & Symptoms

Degenerative disc disease is often the result of the normal aging process, but can also be the result of a motor vehicle accident or work related injury. The discs in our spine are about 80% water. As we get older, the discs lose water content and do not absorb shock as well as they once did. Certain activities can cause injuries or small tears in the discs. Though not everyone with disc degeneration will experience symptoms, in some cases the changes in the disc can put pressure on a nerve root, causing pain and other symptoms.

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease may include:

  • Increased pain with certain activities, especially those that put stress on the back
  • Increased pain when sitting or standing for long periods of time
  • Pain that radiates down one of the arms or legs
  • Muscle tension or spasms in the back
  • Spinal instability - feeling that the spine is “giving out” or unable to support certain movements
  • Pain that improves with certain positions, including sitting in a reclined position or laying down with a pillow under the knees, or pain that improves with frequent stretching or changing positions

With that said, many other spine conditions can cause similar symptoms, so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis from a qualified specialist like Dr. Vigna so that you can start a treatment plan that best fits your needs.

Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease

Dr. Vigna’s process for diagnosing degenerative disc disease is thorough. His goal is to ensure he not only correctly identifies the problem but also understands the patient’s needs.

The diagnostic process may involve x-rays to review the alignment of the spine and identify instability, as well as MRI images to identify any nerve compression that may be present. A thorough physical examination is also part of the process.

However, Dr. Vigna often finds that the most helpful information comes from having a face-to-face conversation with his patients. His goal is to ask the right questions to help patients accurately describe their symptoms and when they occur. This information not only provides critical pieces to the puzzle but also helps guide the treatments that may be recommended.

Treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease

Dr. Vigna typically recommends more conservative treatments initially, and will recommend surgery if nonsurgical methods have proven ineffective in relieving symptoms.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease

At reVive Spine Center, our team includes doctors in several specialties. Our specialists work together to provide comprehensive treatment options for patients with degenerative disc disease.

Our nonsurgical treatment recommendations may include:

  • Chiropractic care with Dr. Shaun Morgan
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation with Dr. John Swinarski
  • Interventional pain management with Dr. John Swinarski
  • Nonoperative spinal decompression with Dr. Shaun Morgan

Throughout the treatment process, patients are monitored to see how they are progressing. Dr. Vigna, Dr. Swinarski, and Dr. Morgan regularly check in with one another to discuss their patient's progress and treatment progression. Having all of your care providers on the same team and under the same roof opens the lines of communication and provides you with the best and most attentive care possible.

Surgical Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease

Surgical treatment options for degenerative disc disease can vary depending on the patient’s needs. Dr. Vigna will discuss options with patients ahead of time, tailoring his recommendations based on the patient’s specific condition and goals.

Surgical procedures for degenerative disc disease may include:

  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
  • Minimally invasive discectomy
  • Minimally invasive spinal fusion
  • Open spinal fusion
  • Disc replacement surgery

In some cases, surgery can be done as an outpatient procedure, though this depends on the patient’s health and the procedure needed. Some patients and procedures will require a hospital stay. However, many patients are up and walking the day of surgery, even if they must stay at the hospital for observation.

If needed, patients will work with a physical therapy team after surgery to build up strength and range of motion in recovery. Dr. Vigna and his team will monitor the patient’s recovery and advise when it is safe to return to certain activities. When fully healed, Dr. Vigna encourages his patients to be active. The ultimate goal of surgery is to allow patients to participate in their favorite activities, whether that involves spending time with your grandkids, participating in sports, or anything in between.

Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease in Western New York

Dr. Franco Vigna is a fellowship-trained spine surgeon and board-certified orthopedic surgeon. He is also a member of the North American Spine Society Committee on Basic Science and Research and is involved in implant design for spine surgery. Dr. Vigna works with our team of experts to design a treatment plan specific to that patient’s needs. When surgery is appropriate, Dr. Vigna tailor’s his recommendations based on the patient’s needs--treatment is never a “one-size-fits-all” approach at reVive Spine Center.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Vigna, please call our office at 716-629-3338 or fill out our Appointment Request form.


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