Disks lie between the spinal bones (vertebra). They serve as shock absorbers. This protects the spine and helps it stay flexible. Degenerative disk disease is wear and tear on the disks. This wear and tear causes pain and other symptoms. Most people have some degeneration in disks as they age. Not all degeneration will result in symptoms of this disease.
The disk is usually dehydrated, and not as resilient as normal. The fibrous tissue, which holds the disk material in place, may suffer small tears. These tears lead to further damage. There is some evidence that genetics may play a part for some people.
The following factors may increase your risk of degenerative disk disease:
Age: 30s or 40s
Family history of degenerative disk disease
Symptoms of degenerative disk disease include:
Pain in the low back, buttocks, thighs, or neck
Pain that worsens when sitting, bending, lifting, or twisting
Pain that feels better when walking, changing positions, or lying down
Periods of severe pain that gets better after a few days or months
Numbness and tingling into the legs
Weakness in the legs
Foot drop (inability to raise the foot at the ankle)
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Other tests may include:
Blood and/or urine tests to rule out other causes of pain
—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body
—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially the bones
—dye is injected into the affected spinal area to get
clearer x-ray images
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include:
Therapy for this condition is focused on teaching you how to manage your back pain. This may involve:
Other forms of physical therapy
Steroid injections may be used for some short term pain relief. They are injected around the nerves exiting the spinal cord.
Surgery may be required for some. Surgery may involve removing the degenerated disk and fusing two of the vertebra together.
Take the following steps to help protect your spine:
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a