Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is common with aging. It happens when the jelly donut-like cushioning that separates the spinal bones loses water and protein content, making it thinner. A typical patient is in his or her 30s or 40s, and otherwise healthy.

Causes are often a combination of genetics and environment, but degenerative disc disease is a normal part of aging. Most patients do not have pain.

Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms

With symptomatic degenerative disc disease, back pain is often more severe while sitting down, as more pressure is put on the lower back. Certain types of movement can worsen pain, such as bending, lifting or twisting. Running and walking can often provide relief and typically feels better than sitting or standing. You may also ease pain while lying down and changing positions frequently.

Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosis

Your doctor will require a full medical history to rule out other possible causes of your back pain. Questions you may be asked are if you have experienced injuries, whether you are feeling pain or weakness or if you have recently experienced any weight loss, fever or illness. You may also be asked about your lifestyle or whether you have any family history of degenerative disc disease.

Treatments for Degenerative Disc

Treatment will depend on the severity of your symptoms, and in most cases surgery is not required. Your Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital doctor will go into detail with you about the nature of your problem and what you can do to prevent further disc degeneration. Treatments can include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen which reduce pain and swelling
  • Epidural injections to ease local inflammation in the spinal cord adjacent to the dengenerative disc(s)
  • Electrical stimulation (TENs) that overrides the pain signals
  • Ultrasound which uses high-frequency sound waves to stimulate blood flow and healing
  • Exercise that keeps you moving, stretching and strengthening your core
  • Weight loss
  • Massage
  • Avoidance of repetitive activities that exacerbate symptoms