Washington University & Barnes-Jewish
Spine Center

Spine Degenerative Disc Disease

Disc degeneration is a natural process of aging. Over time, the fluid-filled discs in between the vertebra can become less flexible and provide less cushioning. When disc degeneration is severe, it can lead to pain, spine instability, or compression of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots with resulting weakness, numbess or pain.

There are many alternatives to surgery for patients with degenerative disc disease. Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons at the Barnes-Jewish & Washington University typically recommend pain management and physical therapy treatments first, often with good results.

When surgery is needed, there are a variety of surgical options available depending on the patient’s symptoms, examination findings and radiographic findings.  

Instead of relying on restrictive spinal fusions to correct disc degeneration in the neck, Spine Center surgeons are advancing the use of artificial disc replacements. Drs. Daniel Riew, Paul Santiago, and Neill Wright have been actively involved in clinical trials to study the efficacy of artificial cervical disc surgery.

Physician Specialists – Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

Physician Specialists – Thoracic and Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease

For a referral to a Washington University neurosurgeon or orthopedic spine surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call .

Jacob Buchowski, MD

Dr. Buchowski is a Washington University orthopedic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish who focuses his practice on spinal tumors and complex reconstructive spine surgery of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine.


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