Degenerative disc disease occurs when a damaged spinal disc, either near the neck area or the back area, causes an individual pain. The pain is caused by degeneration that happens because the injured disc cannot repair itself. Cervical disc degeneration, which is less common than lumbar disc degeneration, can lead to neck pain and stiffness. A specialist may assign many different forms of treatment for an individual suffering from cervical degenerative disc disease, beginning with conservative forms of treatment.
Conservative treatment refers to a wide variety of non-surgical methods of caring for degenerative disc disease. Spine Health reports that “conservative care (non-surgical) is recommended as the primary strategy.” To begin, a specialist may recommend that a patient apply ice or heat to control any pain or inflammation in the neck and shoulder region. A patient may also be prescribed neck appliances or traction to extend the neck and shoulders out. Additionally, a patient may be instructed to take medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, oral steroids, muscle relaxers or narcotic pain relievers.
Another form of treatment a specialist might assign a patient with cervical degenerative disc disease is individualized exercise. A patient will be instructed to exercise the neck in as many ways as possible, including, but not limited to: chin-to-chest, side-to-side swivel, eyes-to-sky or ear-to-shoulder stretch. A specialist, such as a physical therapist, will assign stretches that increase flexibility and reduce stiffness of the neck region.
Last year, a study published by the Massage Therapy Foundation found that massage therapy intervention may reduce symptoms caused by cervical degenerative disc disease. A 66-year-old female client was assigned one-hour sessions twice a week for her cervical degenerative disc disease. Her symptoms included chronic neck, shoulder and arm pain. In addition, her cervical range of motion was also limited due to her neck pain. According to the study, the massage therapy included “soft-tissue manipulation using petrissage and neuromuscular techniques, fascial work, facilitated stretching, joint play, hydrotherapy, education on self-stretching, and positive guidance about condition management.” The client’s condition improved after several sessions. Although only a limited amount of research exists for massage therapy as a treatment option for cervical degenerative disc disease, the study can inform future research.