Degenerative Disc Disease

If you have degenerative disc disease, get advanced treatments like minimally invasive fusion and disc replacement from Rush spine and back experts.

If you have degenerative disc disease, get advanced treatments like minimally invasive fusion and disc replacement from Rush spine and back experts.

If you have degenerative disc disease, get advanced treatments like minimally invasive fusion and disc replacement from Rush spine and back experts.

In spite of its name, degenerative disc disease is not actually a disease. It refers to the natural process by which the intervertebral discs of the spine change over time.

As part of the normal aging process, our intervertebral discs — the cushions between the vertebrae (bones) that act as shock absorbers and enable complex motions like bending and twisting — begin to dry and shrink.

In some cases, these changes eventually lead to ruptured — or herniated — discs, instability in the spine, and/or narrowing of the spinal canal.

Degeneration can occur at any point in the spine but is most common in the lumbar spine (lower back) and cervical spine (neck).

How Can I Get Help for Degenerative Disc Disease?

These are common symptoms of degenerative disc disease:

  • Neck or back pain
    • Flare-ups , particularly lower back pain
    • Pain made worse by bending, lifting or twisting
    • Pain made worse by sitting (for lumbar degenerative disc disease)
    • Chronic pain, especially lower back pain or neck pain
  • Radiating pain
  • Weakness or numbness in your arms or legs

Often, back pain and other symptoms related to degenerative disc disease will go away with the following:

  • Rest
  • Restricting the activities that cause your pain
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers (e.g., acetaminophen)

If the above does not help address your pain, Rush spine and back specialists can help.

Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment at Rush

Nonsurgical Treatments

Spine and back specialists at Rush first try nonsurgical methods to relieve symptoms:

  • Stretching or physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medication (taken by mouth)
  • Spinal injections of medication (typically steroids or anesthetic drugs) directly into the source of pain

Surgical Options

Degenerative disc symptoms may not always respond to nonsurgical approaches. In that case, surgery may be needed.

Common surgeries for degenerative disc disease include the following:

  • Decompression: Removal of a displaced disc or overgrown bone to free pinched nerves
  • Fusion: Building a bone bridge to provide stability and prevent painful motion. Whenever possible, spine surgeons at Rush perform spinal fusions using minimally invasive approaches that help you heal faster and with less pain.
  • Deformity correction: Addresses abnormal curvatures
  • Placement of implants: This could include spacers, artificial discs and nerve stimulators

Your spine specialist will discuss your options and help determine the optimal procedure for you based on your general health, severity of symptoms and personal goals.

Rush Excellence in Degenerative Disc Disease Care

  • Nationally recognized programs: The neurology and neurosurgery program at Rush University Medical Center is ranked No. 4 in the nation, and the orthopedics program is ranked No. 5 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Both programs are also best in Illinois.
  • A trusted source for second opinions: If you are diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, we encourage you to seek a second opinion — especially if surgery has been recommended to address your pain. Our experts will make sure you're aware of every available treatment option and are comfortable with the course of treatment.
  • Renowned spine surgeons: Rush spine surgeons offer and, in many cases, helped pioneer advanced spine surgery techniques. This includes minimally invasive approaches that help you leave the hospital sooner, heal faster and experience less post-surgery pain. Our expertise is one reason why more patients choose Rush for spine care than any other health system in Illinois.

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Clinical Trials

Researchers at Rush are investigating new spine and back treatments.

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Testimonials

One of the ways minimally invasive surgery has really changed the surgical experience for patients is the shortened length of stay, shortened recovery and less pain after surgery.

John O'Toole, MD, MS, Neurosurgeon

Learn about minimally invasive spine surgery at Rush

Degenerative Disc Disease Locations

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Chicago

University Neurosurgery

1725 W Harrison St
Professional Building - Suite 855
Chicago, IL 60612

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Hours:

Mon: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Tue – Sun: Closed
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University Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation - Suite 855

1725 W Harrison St
Professional Building - Suite 855
Chicago, IL 60612

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Hours:

Mon – Tue: 8:30 am – 4:00 pm
Wed: Closed
Thu: 8:30 am – 4:00 pm
Fri – Sun: Closed
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Exterior of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush

Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush

1611 W Harrison St
Orthopedic Building
Chicago, IL 60612-4861

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Aurora/Fox Valley

Rush Copley 2040 Physician Office Building

Rush Copley Medical Group Neurosurgery

2040 Ogden Ave
Suite 300
Aurora, IL 60504

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Office Hours:

Mon – Thu: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Fri: 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Sat – Sun: Closed
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Castle Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine - Aurora Ogden

Castle Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine - Aurora Ogden

2111 Ogden Ave
Aurora, IL 60504

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Office Hours:

Mon – Fri: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sat – Sun: Closed
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Rush Copley Highland Office

Castle Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine - Aurora Highland

1320 N Highland Ave
Suite B
Aurora, IL 60506

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Office Hours:

Mon – Fri: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sat – Sun: Closed
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Rush Copley Healthcare Center

Castle Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine - Yorkville

1100 W Veterns Pkwy
Suite 1
Yorkville, IL 60560

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Office Hours:

Mon – Fri: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sat – Sun: Closed
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Oak Brook

Rush Oak Brook exterior

Rush Oak Brook

2011 York Rd
Oak Brook, IL 60523

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Hours:

Mon – Thu: 7:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fri: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sat: 8:00 am – 12:00 pm (Every first and third Saturday; for MRI, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. every Saturday)
Sun: Closed
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Oak Park

Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush - Rush Oak Park Hospital

610 S Maple Ave
Rush Medical Office Building - Suite 1550
Oak Park, IL 60304-2802

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