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How to treat multilevel degenerative disc disease

How to Treat Multilevel Degenerative Disc Disease

Approximately 40% of adults over the age of 40 have experienced degeneration of at least one disc in the spine[1].

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that is part of age-related “wear and tear” for many. It occurs due to thinning of the shock-absorbing intervertebral discs in the spine and is usually gradual in its deterioration. In many cases, degenerative disc disease may occur in one of the spinal discs as a result of stress and damage. However, quite often, the stress can happen simultaneously on multiple levels throughout the spine. In such cases, degenerative disc disease is classified as multilevel degenerative disc disease. Though technically not a disease, this condition is quite common in individuals above 50, who also show an added propensity toward physical labor, strenuous sports, stress, excessive alcoholism, etc.

Causes and Symptoms

Intervertebral discs provide padding between the spinal vertebrae. While the outer layer is hard, the inner layer of the discs is gelatinous. Together, they provide a cushioning effect for the spine when it is the process of either bearing weights or enabling any movement.

While age-related “wear and tear” is the most common cause of degenerative disc disease, even the stress of small repetitive actions can gradually cause damage and make the spine unstable. Apart from these, there are other causes that can bring about this condition. They include:

  • Disc structure deterioration – tears may appear on the exterior and cause the softer inner disc to bulge through
  • Loss of fluid in the discs – this is again a result of the aging process, where the fluid content could decrease and reduce the cushioning effect

Additionally, deterioration of the cartilage, narrowing down of the spinal canal, and herniated discs can also cause degeneration at multiple levels of the spinal discs.

Those who are prone to obesity, indulge excessively in alcohol or tobacco, participate in hard labor or strenuous sports, and have sudden/acute injuries are at an added risk of developing this condition.

Gradually worsening and spreading pain is the most common symptom of multilevel degenerative disc disease; however, there are several other symptoms that you should look out for, such as:

  • Pain that is sharp and stabbing
  • Radiating pain to buttocks and legs or upper limbs
  • Reduced pain when in a lying down position or when moving frequently
  • Shooting and traveling pain
  • Pain during any movement involving the spine
  • Stiffness and pain in prolonged postures
  • Weakness in limbs
  • Tingling sensations that radiate across the limbs
  • Numbness

Multilevel Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment at Advanced Pain Care

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or are over 50 years, schedule an appointment with a pain care specialist at Advanced Pain Care. They will begin with a comprehensive physical evaluation including imaging tests to check for signs of degeneration.

Treatment for multilevel degenerative disc disease at Advanced Pain Care begins with a course of conservative treatment, which includes pain medications, simple exercises, physical therapy, rest, and dietary modifications. While these steps can help stop progression or lend a hand to alleviating the symptoms, they cannot reverse the degeneration that has already occurred.

In cases where conservative treatment does not seem effective, your doctor may recommend surgery.

The most commonly performed surgical procedures to treat multilevel degenerative disc disease at Pain Care clinic include the following:

  1. Spinal fusion – The diseased/damaged discs are removed and the vertebrae are fused together with screws, plates, or rods. When done for multiple levels, it can affect the range of motion of the spine.
  2. Spinal disc replacement – Prosthetic discs replaces the damaged discs.

These procedures can help in not only reducing the pain and improving the range of motion but can also restrengthen and restabilize the spinal column.

Prevention Tips

Treatment can only help in stopping progression of the disease and reducing the symptoms.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking the right precautions as you age can go a long way in preventing the onset of degenerative disc disease. These can include:

  • Incorporating exercise into your daily routine to improve balance, stability, and flexibility
  • Maintaining an active lifestyle
  • Making dietary changes to include lots of fresh produce that is high in proteins and healthy fats
  • Including nutritional supplements to ensure your body is supplied with ample nutrients vital to bodily function
  • Staying hydrated

At Advanced Pain Care, we have a team of specialists, including neurosurgeons, and pain management physicians, who work together under one roof to provide the best possible care and treatment options for you. With multiple specialties working in unison, Advanced Pain Care in Austin, Texas, has everything you need under one roof. Whether you are experiencing an acute condition or a chronic one, whether you need simple procedures to reduce pain and symptoms, or a more complex surgical procedure, we can help you from the minute you walk in for a consultation with us.

We treat conditions pertaining to age-related wear and tear, repetitive motions of joints, overuse of limbs, trauma, and injuries.

Advanced Pain Care accepts insurance coverage from different network carriers. Click here to check if your insurance provider is listed. We also have a patient portal to facilitate easy access to all our facilities including prescriptions and bill pay. Additionally, you can refill a prescription or request records online should you need them.

We have several centers serving the Austin, Amarillo, and Waco/Killeen as well as advanced surgery centers in Round Rock, Austin, and Amarillo. You can contact us on our mainline or check our website for center-specific contact details.



Dr. Mark T. Malone

Mark T. Malone, M.D., is a Board Certified pain specialist and a native Texan. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and went on to attend the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Dr. Malone attended Baylor College of Medicine… View Profile