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CostHelper > Health & Personal Care  > General Surgery & Neurosurgery > Degenerative Disc Treatment

Degenerative Disc Treatment Cost

How Much Does Degenerative Disc Treatment Cost?

average costWith Health Insurance: Copays or 10%-50% Coinsurancehigh costWithout Health Insurance: $20,000-$150,000
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Degenerative disc disease refers to age-related or injury-related changes -- such as loss of fluid and small tears that can occur in the discs in the neck and back. Symptoms can include pain, numbness and tingling sensations in the back and muscle weakness in the legs.

Typical costs:

  • For patients covered by health insurance, out-of-pocket costs typically consist of doctor visit copays, prescription drug copays or coinsurance of 10%-50%. Treatment for degenerative disc disease typically is covered by insurance, but certain treatments might be excluded, depending on the plan.
  • For patients not covered by health insurance, treatment for degenerative disc disease can range from less than $200 for hot or cold packs and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to $50-$350 per session for physical therapy -- a total of hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the number of sessions -- up to $20,000-$150,000 or more for surgery, depending on the type of surgery.
  • For example, charges about $20 for a one-month supply of generic over-the-counter ibuprofen[1] . And charges $6 to $60 for cold therapy wraps[2] and $8 to $80 for hot water bottles and heating pads[3] . Physical therapy typically costs $50-$350 per session. A microdiscectomy or discectomy typically costs $20,000-$50,000, while spinal fusion surgery costs about $80,000-$150,000.
Related articles: Physical Therapy, Herniated Disc Surgery, Back Surgery, Chiropractor, Cane

What should be included:
  • In many cases, a doctor will prescribe rest, hot or cold therapy -- whichever provides more relief -- and a pain reliever. Often, physical therapy is recommended; the therapist can show patients exercises that strengthen core muscles, improve flexibility and might alleviate symptoms.
  • In cases where symptoms are severe, when a patient is having trouble walking or sitting, or when there is muscle weakness that could indicate nerve damage, surgery might be recommended. Depending on the individual case, symptoms and underlying causes, a patient might need a microdiscectomy or discectomy[4] , or spinal fusion surgery[5] . These inpatient surgeries typically require general anesthesia, a hospital stay of up to five days or more and up to two months or more until the patient can resume normal activities.
  • WebMD has an overview of degenerative disc disease and treatment[6] .
Additional costs:
  • Some patients require a cane, which typically costs about $15-$80, or a walker, which can cost up to $200 or more.
  • Some patients require a back brace or corset, which can cost $200 or more.
  • Many physical therapists, hospitals and doctors give discounts of up to 30% or more to uninsured/cash-paying patients. For example, ARC Physical Therapy[7] in Illinois offers a 30% discount to cash-paying patients, as well as special waivers or discounts for patients undergoing financial hardship. And Washington Hospital Healthcare System[8] in California offers a 35% discount.
Shopping for degenerative disc treatment:
  • A family doctor can provide initial treatment and, if necessary, a referral to an orthopaedic surgeon, neurosurgeon or other specialist.
  • offers a locator[9] for spine centers with teams of specialists who all focus on treatment of spine-related disorders. The American Academy of Neurology offers a neurologist locator[10] . The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery offers an orthopaedic-surgeon finder[11] by city, state or zip code. And the American Board of Neurological Surgery offers a neurosurgeon locator[12] . For epidural steroid injections, it might be necessary to visit a board-certified anesthesiologist[13] , preferably one who specializes in interventional pain medicine.
  • Both orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons can perform surgery for degenerative disc disease., a site run by orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, offers advice on choosing[14] between an orthopaedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon. In general, what matters the most is that the doctor specializes in and has extensive experience performing spine surgery. offers a decision-making guide[15] about surgery for degenerative disc disease.
  • The American Physical Therapy Association offers a physical-therapist locator. Physical therapists are licensed at the state level after passing an exam, and it is important to verify that a provider is licensed. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy offers contact information[16] for each state licensing body.
Material on this page is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always consult your physician or pharmacist regarding medications or medical procedures.
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