If you’ve been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, treatment for your condition will probably begin conservatively, or non-surgically. While physical therapy, cold/hot therapy, low-impact exercise, and other conservative methods may be recommended by your doctor, your treatment plan will most likely involve some form of medication.
Types of Medications
As a degenerative disc disease patient, there are various medicinal options available to you, but the most common forms are:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and other COX-2 inhibitors, are extremely common over-the-counter medications typically used to treat inflammation and mild to moderate pain. This type of medication is chemically designed to block an enzyme necessary for the production of prostaglandins, or chemicals which cause inflammation and an increased sensitivity to pain.
- Analgesics – These pain-relieving drugs are also widely used and can be found in many over-the-counter forms. Acetaminophen is one of the most common non-prescription analgesics, and is a main ingredient of Tylenol. Acetaminophen is generally used to treat mild pain and fevers but it does not reduce inflammation, and is not considered to be as effective in relieving pain as NSAIDs.
- Opioids – Opioids, or narcotics, such as morphine, codeine, and oxycodone, work differently than NSAIDs and analgesics in that they chemically alter your brain’s interpretation of pain signals. For this reason, they can be addictive and are available by prescription only to treat a
cute (short-term) episodes of moderate to severe pain.
- Muscle relaxants – These drugs, including cyclobenzaprine and methocarbamol, help to treat muscle pain and spasms caused by neurological conditions.
- Corticosteroids – Steroids are usually prescribed to reduce the production of inflammation-inducing chemicals. Options include cortisone and methylprednisolone, which can be administered topically, orally, or intravenously.
- Epidural steroid injections – Steroidal (anti-inflammatory) and anesthetic (numbing) medications are injected into the epidural space surrounding the spinal cord, which are then distributed throughout the central nervous system via the spinal fluid.
Always consult your doctor before taking any medication, especially if you have any other health issues. Certain substances may interact adversely with one another, so be sure to mention any other drugs or supplements you may be taking.
When Medications Don’t Relieve Pain
If medications and other conservative degenerative disc disease treatment methods fail to provide relief after several weeks or months, your doctor may suggest that you undergo surgery. It’s important to research all of your options and obtain several additional medical opinions before consenting to any surgical degenerative disc disease procedure.