Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease

Treatment for Herniated Disc, Ruptured Disc, and Spine Arthritis

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Duke spine specialists offer nonsurgical and surgical options to help you find relief from severe back pain, stiffness, and inflammation associated with degenerative disc disease. Expert treatment is important because herniated discs, ruptured discs, and other forms of degenerative disc disease can lead to spine arthritis, including spondylosis, spondylolisthesis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

While our goal is to help you avoid spine surgery, it may be your best option when medications, physical therapy, and alternative treatments like acupuncture fail to relieve your symptoms. If you require spine surgery, we use the latest techniques, including a minimally invasive approach whenever appropriate. This means we operate through several tiny incisions so you recover faster and experience less pain and fewer complications.

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We may control your pain using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, that do not require a prescription. Medication is typically combined with physical therapy as your first treatment.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy exercises can strengthen your spine. They can also minimize your pain and help you avoid injury by improving your overall balance and flexibility. Your spine specialist may direct your physical therapy program by recommending the best exercises for you.

Epidural Steroid Injections

When NSAIDs are no longer effective, steroid injections may be prescribed to treat inflammation and pain right at the source. You may see your doctor and receive your treatment on the same day.

Alternative Treatments

An acupuncturist on staff may help reduce your neck and back pain. We also offer nontraditional supplements such as fish oil, which some people find effective. We offer these treatments as a complement to your regular treatment plan, not as a substitute.

Spinal Fusion Surgery

Fuses together the vertebrae in your back to prevent further pinching or irritation of your nerves or spinal cord.

Cervical Disc Replacement (Total Disc Arthroplasty)

During this procedure, your surgeon replaces a damaged disc with a metal or plastic artificial disc.

Lumbar Microdiscectomy

Removes a small portion of a vertebra or disc to relieve pressure on a nerve caused by a herniated disc.

Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.


Your doctor will order one or more of the following tests to diagnose the cause of your spinal pain.


X-ray images show areas of instability in your spine. Because X-rays only show bones, and not discs or nerves, another imaging test is usually needed.


Magnets and radio waves create detailed pictures of your spinal discs and the nerve roots of your spinal cord.

CT Scan

A series of cross-sectional pictures produce detailed, 3-D pictures of your spine and spinal cord.

CT Myelogram

A dye is injected into the sac around the nerve roots in your spinal cord to help them show up better on a CT scan.

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Why Choose Duke

Personalized Therapy Plans
Whenever possible, our goal is to keep you from needing surgery. That’s why our approach involves a combination of treatments to target the cause of your pain and symptoms. We develop a plan that includes medication and/or injections with physical therapy. If appropriate, we also offer nontraditional options like acupuncture.

Spine Surgery Expertise
Our spine surgeons perform more than 1,200 spinal surgeries every year, including minimally invasive procedures and complex reconstructive surgeries.

Intraoperative Imaging Technology
Advanced imaging in our OR suites creates detailed, 3-D pictures of your spine, spinal cord, and nerve roots that guide spine surgeons as they operate.

A Team of Specialists
In addition to neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons, your team may include doctors and nurses, acupuncturists, physiatrists, pain management experts, and physical therapists -- all of whom may work with you to alleviate the pain and inflammation caused by your spinal condition.

Duke University Hospital is nationally ranked in 10 adult specialties
Best Hospital for Orthopaedics, Neurosurgery in NC
Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital’s nationally ranked orthopaedics, neurology, and neurosurgery programs were named best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.