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24/6/2020 Sophia Hogg

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is also called degeneration of the spinal disc as a result of natural processes of wear and tear & aging. While the condition progresses with age, mostly the pain associated with it progresses too.

Most people experience mild pain but some people do have unbearable pain which radiates from their lower back and down the legs. It is also known as osteoarthritis of the spine.

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What causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

Spinal discs are the bedding or the shock-absorbers which are situated in between the vertebrae of the spinal cord. These spinal discs have a soft inner core and tough outer wall.

The outer tough wall is called annulus fibrosus and the inner soft wall is called the nucleus pulposus.

As people age, these spinal discs go through natural processes and damage as a result of stress and injuries.

The degeneration of these spinal discs can occur in two ways -


  • 1.

    Drying up of the spinal fluid - The fluid or water between spinal discs acts as a shock absorbing cushion between your vertebrae. As you age and get older, the daily physical stressors and any injuries slowly dry up this fluid till the point that vertebrae grind together and nothing’s left of the fluid.

    This causes spine pain and degenerative disc disease.

  • 2.

    Cracks in the disc structure - Daily physical stressors and injuries cause tiny cracks to form on the outer wall of your spinal discs. These cracks can cause nerve damage and pain and also cause the inner soft to slip through. The soft core then bulges out of these cracks and results in a slipped or herniated disc.


This degenerative condition is countered by your body by building osteophytes. These are tiny bony projections growing along your bones which can press on the spinal nerves and cause pain.

What are the symptoms of degenerative disc disease?

The symptoms of degenerative disc disease are -

  • Pain in your thighs and lower buttocks

  • The pain lessens when you walk around instead of sitting.

  • Getting up from your seat flares up the pain.

  • Muscle spasms in your lower back and neck

  • Tingling intense pain in your arms and legs

How is degenerative disc disease diagnosed?

Degenerative disc disease is diagnosed by your provider by asking your family history, and the quality of your pain. They can ask you questions like -

  • When did you first experience lower back pain?

  • Where do you experience pain in your body?

  • Did you have any injuries or accidents which may have caused your pain?

  • Does your family have a history of spinal diseases or conditions?

They may examine your body for - nerve damage, pain in response to touch and muscle strength.

There are tests which are used to determine whether you have a degenerative disc disease -

  • 1.

    An X-ray or MRI scan is used to do imaging studies of the spine and surrounding body parts to see the alignment of the spinal discs.

  • 2.

    Discogram is a technique of using dye to see whether and how painful the spinal discs are.

How is degenerative disc disease treated?

Physical therapy, medication and injections are the most common methods of treatment before exhausting all options to move on to spine surgery.

  • Medications like ibuprofen and aspirin are prescribed as painkillers.

  • Facet joint injections are steroid shots injected in the joints surrounding the affected spinal discs. These provide pain relief if paired with a local anaesthetic.

  • Physiotherapy helps your spine become flexible and strong.

  • If all these above options fail, then your spine specialist may suggest spine surgery.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from debilitating lower back pain, please consult our expert doctors and get the proper treatment.

Call us on 469-805-4561 or request a callback by submitting your contact details.