Degenerative disc disease is a condition that describes symptoms associated with damaged spinal discs. Spinal discs degenerate over time most commonly from the natural wear and tear of aging. Other reasons for spinal disc degeneration may include injuries that progressively worsen over time, or progressive diseases such as osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of low back pain and can worsen if treatment is not sought.
Degenerative Disc Disease Causes
Age-related changes in the spine contribute to lost fluid in spinal discs, ultimately minimizing their flexibility and ability to absorb shock. As a result, tiny cracks may surface on the exterior of the spinal disc, causing the inside of the disc (nucleus pulposus) to break through. This process could herniate or rupture the spinal disc. An acute injury, smoking cigarettes, heavy lifting, obesity, osteoarthritis, or osteoporosis may also begin or cause the degeneration process.
Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms
Depending on the condition's severity level, symptoms of degenerative disc disease could range from little to no symptoms to excruciating pain that limits a person's abilities. Generally speaking, signs or symptoms of degenerative disc disease may include:
- Sharp, dull, or aching back or neck pain
- Intense pain in the low back, buttocks, or legs
- Pain that worsens with minimal movements (i.e. bending over, twisting)
- Pain that worsens over time
- Numbness or weakness in the back or neck
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatments
Conservative treatment options such as rest, ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be considered for mild cases, but for moderate to severe cases of degenerative disc disease, the following interventional treatment options should be considered: