Degenerative Disc Disease


What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degeneration of the inter-vertebral discs occurs in most people from routine "wear and tear" as part of the normal aging process. It is sometimes called arthritis of the spine. With age, the discs (which act as shock-absorbing cushions) lose fluid, making them less flexible and more compressed.

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease

Degeneration in the discs is typically the normal wear and tear that occurs as a person ages. On occasion it can be caused by repetitive strain or injury. Obesity, smoking, heavy lifting and hereditary factors can also lead to advanced degeneration.


Although it starts with damage to one or more disc(s), degenerative disc disease eventually affects all parts of the spine. The degenerated discs become thinner and lose their cushioning ability changing the way the affected spinal segments move. Abnormal spinal movement alters the loading of the involved joints, ligaments and muscles causing pain. Bone spurs (osteophytes) may form around the damaged disc space which can also cause pain when they press on the spinal nerves.

Treatment Options

Degenerative Disc Disease (arthritis of the spine) causes lower back or neck pain in most people at some point in their lives. Symptoms often resolve on their own. In most cases, appropriate exercise, some modification of activities, and physical therapy is sufficient to eliminate or reduce the pain. Medications may also be helpful to reduce inflammation. Surgery is performed for those whose symptoms do not improve on conservative treatment.


1When does degenerative disc disease start?
Degenerative disc disease is an age-related ailment that occurs over time due to the wear and tear of the intervertebral discs. As a result, the health of the spinal discs declines over time.
2How long do symptoms of degenerative disc disease begin to show?
A spinal disc degenerates slowly, and as a result, signs of this begin to develop after 20-30 years. Symptoms of pain intensify when sitting, lifting objects or bending.
3How do you treat degenerative disc disease permanently?
Degenerative disc disease is an irreversible condition. So instead, treatment is aimed at improving the health of surrounding structures (spinal nerves, joints, muscles and ligaments).