Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease is a condition that involves the gradual deterioration of the intervertebral discs in the spine. These discs, which act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae, gradually lose their ability to provide proper cushioning and support over time.


Degenerative disc disease is a condition that causes the gradual breakdown of the discs in the spine. These discs act as cushions between the vertebrae, and over time they can lose their water content and become less flexible. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and other problems.


The exact cause of degenerative disc disease is unknown, but it is thought to be a result of a combination of factors, including:

  • Ageing: As we get older, our discs naturally lose water content and become less flexible.
  • Wear and tear: Over time, the discs in the spine can wear down from repeated use.
  • Injury: A sudden injury to the back can damage a disc or accelerate the degeneration process.
  • Genetics: Some people may be more genetically predisposed to developing degenerative disc disease than others.


The symptoms of degenerative disc disease can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the location of the affected discs. Some common symptoms include:

  • Back pain: This is the most common symptom of degenerative disc disease. The pain may be mild or severe, and it may come and go.
  • Neck pain: Degenerative disc disease can also affect the discs in the neck, causing pain and stiffness.
  • Radicular pain: This type of pain radiates down the arm or leg from the spine. It is caused by compression of a nerve root.
  • Numbness or tingling: Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs can also be a symptom of degenerative disc disease.
  • Muscle weakness: Weakness in the arms or legs can occur if a nerve root is compressed.


To diagnose degenerative disc disease, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history. They may also order imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRI scans, or CT scans.


Treatment for degenerative disc disease will depend on the severity of your symptoms and the underlying cause. In most cases, conservative treatments are effective in managing the condition. These treatments may include:

  • Pain medication: Over-the-counter or prescription pain medication can be used to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles that support the spine and improve flexibility.
  • Heat or ice therapy: Applying heat or ice to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Lifestyle changes: Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and practising good posture can all help manage the symptoms of degenerative disc disease.

In some cases, more invasive treatments may be necessary, such as epidural steroid injections or surgery. However, these treatments are typically only recommended if conservative treatments have not been effective.

Benefits Of Treatment

Treating degenerative disc disease can help to:

  • Reduce pain and other symptoms
  • Improve function and mobility
  • Prevent further progression of the condition
  • Improve quality of life

Risks Of Treatment

All treatments have some risks, but the risks of treating degenerative disc disease are generally low. Conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and medication, have very few risks. More invasive treatments, such as epidural steroid injections and surgery, carry more risks, such as infection, bleeding, and nerve damage.


The recovery time from degenerative disc disease will vary depending on the severity of the condition and the type of treatment received. Most people who are treated with conservative methods are able to return to their normal activities within a few weeks or months. People who have surgery may need to wear a back brace for several months and may have to restrict their activities for several months.


There is no way to completely prevent degenerative disc disease, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk, such as:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Practising good posture
  • Using proper lifting techniques

If you have any concerns about degenerative disc disease, please make an appointment.

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