What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of low back pain and neck pain, and also one of the most misunderstood.
For a patient who is new to this diagnosis, common questions often include:
- If I have pain from degenerative disc disease in my thirties, how much worse will it become with age?
- Will the degenerative disc disease become a crippling condition? Will I end up in a wheelchair?
- Should I restrict my activities? Can I still play sports?
- Will the disease spread to other parts of the spine?
- Will the degenerated disc(s) cause any permanent damage?
- What can I do to reduce the symptoms from a degenerated disc?
- Is surgery inevitable?
Simply put, degenerative disc disease describes the symptoms of pain and possibly radiating weakness or numbness stemming from a degenerated disc in the spine. While the definition sounds simple, many patients diagnosed with degenerative disc disease are left wondering exactly what this diagnosis means for them.
What Are The Symptoms?
Degenerative disc disease may result in back or neck pain, but this varies from person to person. Many people have no pain, while others with the same amount of disc damage have severe pain that limits their activities. Where the pain occurs depends on the location of the affected disc. An affected disc in the neck area may result in neck or arm pain, while an affected disc in the lower back may result in pain in the back, buttock, or leg. The pain often gets worse with movements such as bending over, reaching up, or twisting.
The pain may start after a major injury (such as from a car accident), a minor injury (such as a fall from a low height), or a normal motion (such as bending over to pick something up). It may also start gradually for no known reason and get worse over time. In some cases, you may have numbness or tingling in your leg or arm.