Your Health - Dealing with Degenerative Disc Disease
"It begins to go down the back of one leg, in my case," she explained, "and then, when it developed further into the disease, it went down the other leg. So, I was having pain shooting down both of my legs, and then my feet and toes went numb."
Church's painful symptoms were a clear sign of degenerative disc disease, when discs between the spine's vertebrae wear down and collapse, compressing the space between the vertebrae. Then, the discs can't absorb the shock and pressure the body puts on the back.
"You really couldn't be out with your children. You really couldn't do anything," said Church. "I would just really go lie in bed because that was the best position I could be in. I couldn't sit, I couldn't stand for any period of time."
But time, according to Church's doctor, along with medication, physical therapy or injections might be all that's needed to ease the pain.
"The great majority of patients that have degenerative disc disease never require surgical intervention," said John Miles, orthopedic surgeon. "It's a distinct minority."
But, after trying those treatments, Church found herself in that distinct minority. So, she had lumbar fusion surgery, a procedure surgeons can now perform without making incisions or cutting through muscle. In addition, patients lose much less blood and have shorter hospital stays.
"I was walking up and down the hall the next day, and I think I went home two days out of surgery," Church recalled. "My fourth day out, I walked a mile in one day."
Despite Church's successful surgery, Dr. Miles recommends looking at all treatments before deciding to operate.
"We treat patients, not x-rays. You can look at x-rays and images all day, but in the end you have to treat the patient," he said.