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Degenerative Spine Conditions Center

Walking, carrying, lifting, twisting: According to research, each year the average human takes some 2,000,000 steps and flexes their spine some 125,000 times. With the average life expectancy now approaching 80 years, this means that the average spine is subjected to millions of cycles of stress over the course of a life time. Consequently, most spines experience some level of degeneration, with prior research indicating that nearly three-quarters of all people will have changes detectable on MRI by the age of 50. Most people will remain asymptomatic.

However, you may be living with degenerative back changes that are more advanced than usual for your age. As a result, you may be experiencing back, neck, arm or leg pain that significantly limits your mobility and ability to take part in normal aspects of daily life. 

Robotic Assisted Spinal Surgery: FAQs

Dr.Nicholas Theodore answers common questions about robotic-assisted spinal surgery, including who is most likely to benefit, and how these advanced technologies can lead to good results.

Approaches to Spinal Fusion: FAQs

Dr.Nicholas Theodore answers frequently-asked questions about spinal fusion surgery, including types of procedures, who is a candidate and how to achieve the best outcomes.


Degenerative Spine Conditions: What You Need to Know

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  • Degenerative spine problems can take one of many forms, including loss of intervertebral disc height, facet joint hypertrophy, or spinal ligament hypertrophy.

  • There may be loosening joints in your spine, generating focal back and or neck pain, as well as reducing the diameter of your spinal canal (intervertebral foramina), compressing the spinal cord or the exiting nerve roots. These changes may lead to shooting arm or leg pain, bowel or bladder incontinence, leg weakness, activity-related leg fatigue, or hand clumsiness, among other challenges.

  • For most of these conditions, non-operative treatments are considered to be the first line in treatment, including:

    • Epidural and facet-joint steroid injections
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
    • Physical therapy 
    • Acupuncture/dry-needling
    • Massage
    • Aquatherapy
  • However, if, even after these approaches, you see insufficient improvement in your symptoms, it may be time to consider spine surgery. More important, for those with steadily increasing bowel or bladder dysfunction, balance issues, shooting pains of the arms or legs, hand clumsiness or weakness of the arms and legs, surgery may be the best option.

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Why choose Johns Hopkins for Degenerative Spine Conditions?


Our Physicians

Our collaborative team comprises world-renowned specialists, including neurosurgeons, neurologists, pain specialists, physical medicine experts, rehabilitation physicians, and therapists who work together on your individualized treatment plan.

Meet Our Physicians:
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Our Services

The experts at the Degenerative Spine Disease Center will work together with you to relieve back pain and help restore the function of your back, with an individualized approach to your unique situation. In many cases, we can help you get back to normal without surgery. If your surgeon does recommend a surgical procedure, you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive techniques.

Our Research

Learn more about the Spinal Fusion Laboratory and how we're working to improve outcomes for patients with degenerative spinal disease. Current investigations include studies of spinopelvic fixation, novel pro-fusion biologics, and the examination of connective tissue-derived stem cells as potential agents for spinal fusion.

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Maryland Patients

Learn how to request an appointment with or refer a patient to the Neurosurgical Spine Center at Johns Hopkins. You may direct additional questions or follow up with one of our office coordinators at 410-955-4424.

Traveling for Care?

Whether you're crossing the country or the globe, we make it easy to access world-class care at Johns Hopkins.

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