Degenerative Disc Disease Specialist

The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles

Brian R. Gantwerker, MD

Neurosurgeon located in Santa Monica, CA

Degenerative disc disease can affect your lower back and neck, causing chronic pain that flares up into an intense episode of disabling pain. As an experienced neurosurgeon, Brian Gantwerker, MD, at The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles performs minimally invasive surgery that effectively relieves your pain while maintaining spinal movement. To learn more about this type of surgery for degenerative disc disease, call either the Santa Monica, California call us at (310) 694-8300 or email us at

Degenerative Disc Disease Q & A

What causes degenerative disc disease?

The discs between each vertebra are susceptible to degenerative changes that naturally occur over time. When you’re young, each disc is about 80% water, but discs dry out over the years. As a result, discs become thinner and don’t absorb shock properly.

Disc degeneration is also affected by daily wear-and-tear and injuries that damage the tough outer core of the disc. Since discs have a limited blood supply, they don’t heal well. All these factors work together to cause disc degeneration that leads to spinal instability and pain.

What degenerative disc disease symptoms could I develop?

Many patients experience moderate but continuous lower back or neck pain (depending on the location of the affected disc), with occasional flare-ups of intense pain. Flare-ups are often sudden and severe enough to stop you in your tracks.

Spinal instability from a weakened disc may cause painful and debilitating muscle spasms. It can also give you the feeling that your spine is about to give out because it can’t support the weight of your body or head.

When the disc pinches a nerve, you may develop pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness that affects your legs or arms.

How do you treat degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease treatment begins with conservative therapies such as exercise and physical therapy. It’s important to keep moving to prevent stiff muscles and more severe pain. Steroid injections and muscle relaxants may help some patients.

When your pain persists after six to 12 weeks of conservative treatments, surgical intervention is the next option. Although disc removal and spinal fusion are the surgical procedures often used to treat degenerative disc disease, fusing two vertebrae together reduces your ability to move.

Dr. Gantwerker has a better option. He specializes in motion preservation procedures such as artificial disc replacement. When the damaged disc is removed and replaced, the new artificial disc preserves movement and also effectively relieves your pain.

When Dr. Gantwerker performs artificial disc replacement, he uses minimally invasive techniques. That means the incisions are very small, and he uses a microscope to view the spine and specialized tools that can easily fit through the small incision.

Minimally invasive surgery produces less bleeding, promotes quicker recovery, and leaves minimal scarring.

If you suffer from lower back or neck pain due to degenerative disc disease, call The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles or book an appointment online.