Degenerative spine/disc disease (DDD) involves degeneration of the discs, ligaments, and joints of your spine. Everyone experiences some change as we get older, but it becomes a concern when the symptoms interfere with your quality of life. It is the most common of all spine disorders. DDD can occur anywhere in your spine, but it is most common in the cervical spine (neck) and the lumbar spine (lower back). It can also cause pain, numbness, or weakness in your arms or legs. Risk factors for degenerative spine/disc disease include increased age, obesity, lack of exercise, trauma, family history, osteoporosis, and smoking.

To diagnose degenerative spine/disc disease, Mount Sinai Health System doctors conduct a thorough physical examination. We may also order a diagnostic imaging test such as a magnetic resonance imaging, X-ray, or computed tomography scan. Our goal is to determine how quickly we need to react. Weakness is usually a sign of urgency while we can treat pain and numbness with more conservative measures.

While some spinal degeneration occurs with normal aging, it does not always cause symptoms. The best way to prevent symptoms is to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, perform weight-bearing exercises to maintain strong bones, and avoid smoking.

  • At the IBS Hospital Health System, we give all patients with spinal trauma a thorough physical examination, including all organ systems by a multidisciplinary team of trauma specialists. We may also conduct imaging scans such as X-rays, a CT scan, or an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Our goal is to determine whether you have a complete or incomplete spinal cord injury.
  • We use this information to develop a treatment plan specific to your needs. If you are stable enough for spinal treatment, we will determine whether decompression, fusion, or bracing is appropriate. Decompression involves removing any bone, disc, or a blood clot that is pushing on a nerve or the spinal cord. Fusion includes stabilizing the bones of your spine (vertebrae) that are structurally weak or have too much abnormal motion. Usually, we implant titanium rods and screws into your back. We can do either of these procedures through traditional "open" surgery or a minimally invasive procedure.
  • Over the past few years, there has been incredible growth in the technologies available to stabilize the spine after trauma. These approaches make it easier to recover and progress to rehabilitation relatively quickly. We at IBS Hospital are proud to offer a comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation hospital with a dedicated spinal trauma unit. We tailor rehabilitation programs to help you improve as much, and as quickly, as possible.

Please visit our Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program for more information.