Degenerative spinal disease: causes, symptoms and treatment

Written by: Mr Venkat Iyer
Edited by: Conor Lynch

Top Doctors recently had the chance to interview extremely well-regarded and experienced neurosurgeon and spinal surgeon, Mr Venkat Iyer. Here, we quizzed him on what exactly degenerative spinal disease is, what causes it, and how it is treated most effectively.

What exactly is degenerative spinal disease?

It is when the joints of each vertebrae start to get thicker, and in doing so, begin trapping the nerves of the spinal cord.


What are the main symptoms?

It depends on whether degenerative spinal disease occurs in the neck or the back. The most common symptom, though, is lower back pain. Sciatica, arm pain, difficulty walking, and difficulty moving the arm are all other common symptoms.


What causes degenerative spinal disease?

We are currently unsure as to what exactly causes it. It is certainly partly age-related and partly related to the activity that you do in your life. Being extremely overweight as well as smoking can influence one’s chances of suffering from degenerative spinal disease.


How is it diagnosed?

The overall diagnosis depends on the symptoms. The most common form of diagnosis is an MRI scan of the spine. A CT scan is occasionally required.


What are the different treatment options available?

There are many different ways to treat degenerative spinal disease. The main ones include the following:


  • painkillers
  • physiotherapy
  • lifestyle changes
  • injections around the nerves
  • injections around the spinal canal
  • surgery (to relieve compression)


Book an appointment with Mr Venkat Iyer today via his Top Doctors profile. The highly esteemed Bath and Bristol-based neurosurgeon and spinal surgeon can help you when it comes to relieving back and/or neck pain.

By Mr Venkat Iyer

Mr Venkat Iyer is an experienced neurosurgeon and spinal surgeon based in Bristol with 25 years of experience in neurosurgery. He undertakes surgery for brain and spinal conditions. Mr Iyer deals with the full range of intracranial pathology but has a special interest and expertise in the surgery of spinal cord tumours and brain tumours. He is an expert at performing removal of brain tumours in complex locations and uses several adjuncts to carry out surgery such as the use of 5-ALA (a dye that highlights abnormal tissue during surgery), awake craniotomy to map motor and language function, neurophysiological monitoring during surgery for accurate localisation and to prevent damage, and advanced imaging techniques such as functional MRI and tractography as well as the use of intraoperative ultrasound and MRI scan to ensure adequate and safe removal of tumour tissue.

He also specialises in surgery for degenerative conditions of the cervical and lumbar spine, such as lumbar decompression, lumbar microdiscectomy, lumbar and cervical micro foraminotomy and anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.

He works very closely with cancer specialists (delivering radiotherapy and chemotherapy) and is part of a team involved in delivering stereotactic radiosurgery (gamma knife) at Bristol to selected brain tumours. All of his approaches are minimally invasive and he aims to achieve maximum symptom relief with minimum discomfort.

Mr Iyer currently chairs the team Clinical Advisory Group (CAG) for brain tumours of the Somerset Wiltshire Avon and Gloucestershire (SWAG) Cancer network which is part of the Southwest Cancer Alliance.

View Profile

Overall assessment of their patients

This website uses our own and third-party Cookies to compile information with the aim of improving our services, to show you advertising related to your preferences as well analysing your browsing habits. You can change your settings HERE.