What is degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease sounds scary, but don’t let the name fool you. In reality, it shouldn’t be called a disease at all. Degenerative disc disease is a general term used to describe pain and other symptoms that come from a spinal disc that is “damaged” because it has started to go through the normal aging process.  It would be a little like calling age-related wrinkling Degenerative Skin Disease!

Spinal discs are the donut-shaped cushions between the bones in your spine (vertebrae), and they act as shock absorbers and help you bend, twist, and flex your back. As the body ages, the discs also start to age, meaning they aren’t quite as thick as they once were, and they don’t provide as much support as they once did.

What You May Be Feeling

Degenerative Disc Disease can cause lower back pain

Back Pain

Degenerative Disc Disease can cause neck pain

Neck Pain

Degenerative Disc Disease can cause stiffness


Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

The primary symptom of degenerative disc disease is pain. A degenerative disc generally starts in the lower back and may spread to the buttocks and thighs. Degenerative disc disease may cause symptoms, such as numbness and/or tingling in the arms and legs; pain that is worse when sitting, or when bending, twisting, or lifting; pain that radiates to the neck, arms, or hands; pain that is worse when standing but better when walking or running; and severe pain that comes and goes over a period of a few days to a few months.

Potential Treatment Options

When the disc compresses the spinal cord or nerve root, removal is a consideration. The disc is replaced with an artificial disc to preserve motion at the disc space. Learn More.


During an ACDF the damaged disc in the neck is removed, relieving pain and pressure, while at the same time providing new much needed stability with a reinforced implant. Learn More.


During a lumbar fusion the damaged disc is removed from the lower back (lumbar spine), and the two vertebrae are fused together with a reinforced implant to create more support. Learn More.

Also known as an RFA, this procedure uses high-energy radio frequency to ablate the troubled nerve, essentially eliminating the source of pain. Learn More.


Things You Can Do At Home To Relieve Symptoms

  • Exercises designed to strengthen your back

  • Pain medication

  • Plenty of rest, with a gradual return to your normal routine

  • Physical therapy

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