Ali Moshirfar, MD
Discs are the structures that exist between the vertebras (bones) in your spine. Discs allow for shock absorption and motion between the vertebras. However, unfortunately because of the natural aging process, discs can degenerate. During this degenerative process, which can begin as early as in our 20s, the discs lose some of their water content and become more dry and prone to injury. This in turn reduces their ability to move and absorb shock between the vertebras leading to common complaints of low back and neck pain as well as nerve impingement. When discs are significantly degenerated one can experience chronic pain. When discs herniate or bulge out of their normal space this can lead to nerve impingement which can cause leg pain (sciatica) or arm pain.
In the past when conservative treatments (medications, rest, physical therapy and injection procedures) have failed, most surgeons have resorted to fusion of disc. However, with disc replacement, the degenerated and/or herniated disc can be replaced to relieve pain and maintain motion. Avoiding fusion is advantageous as it decreases stress on other adjacent discs which in turn can degenerate more rapidly and maintain great degree of motion. However, not everyone is a candidate for disc replacement, and some factors to consider are the extent of the disc degeneration or herniation, stability of the spine, prior surgeries, and the bone quality of the patient. Your surgeon can best evaluate your condition and recommend the best course of treatment.