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Behrooz Akbarnia M.D.
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Ramin Bagheri M.D.
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Gregory Mundis M.D.
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Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines
10666 North Torrey Pines Rd
La Jolla, CA 92037
858-554-7988

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Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

As we age, our vertebral discs, which serve as shock absorbers for the spine, gradually dry out, affecting their strength and resiliency. This can lead to degenerative disc disease (DDD). DDD of the cervical spine is a relatively common condition for aging adults. However, many people who have cervical degenerative disc disease donít even know it. They may only become aware of the condition when being examined for another health problem or during a routine checkup.

Symptoms of Cervical DDD
Disc degeneration is a normal part of aging, and is not usually a problem. However, DDD can cause the discs to lose height and to become stiff. When disc height is lost, nerve impingement, bone and joint inflammation, and resultant pain can occur. Disc degeneration causes loss of the joint space, similar to arthritis pain and inflammation. In severe cases, this pain may be constant.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Diagnosing Cervical DDD
All effective treatments are built upon accurate diagnosis. The physicians at our practice utilize a combination of their expertise and state-of-the-art diagnostic technology to ensure a correct diagnosis. The diagnostic process includes:

In some cases we also use a selection of other tests including:

MRI-Magnetic Resonance Imaging
MRI of the Cervical Spine

Treatment of Cervical DDD

Non-operative Care
For acute or sudden neck pain, we can prescribe pain relief medications such as acetaminophen, anti-inflammatory agents, and muscle relaxants. Temporary bed rest or a brace may also be suggested. But patients are encouraged to get up and gradually increase their activities of daily living.

In addition to pain relief, muscle relaxants and a gradual return to activity, your physican may prescribe one or more of the following non-operative treatments:

Surgical Treatment
If symptoms of cervical DDD persist despite these non-operative treatments, and there is evidence of one or more herniated discs, surgery may be necessary. Your surgeon will consider various surgical options.

A common technique that we utilize is an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). This involves an anterior (from the front) approach, removal of the offending disc and then fusion of the adjacent vertebrae usually with instrumentation. However, there are also other surgical options that will be considered, including a PCDF (a similar procedure to an ACDF but done from the back of the spine) and a foraminotomy (enlarges the area through which the nerve roots exit the spine). Your surgeon will carefully discuss these options with you.

Recovery
While cervical DDD is a natural part of aging, it does not mean you have to live with neck pain. We can help you return to a healthy, active life. For most patients this can be accomplished with non-surgical treatments. But even if surgery is needed, be assured that we will discuss with you all aspects of the procedure and provide you with the best care possible.