Degenerative Disc Disease: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that affects the intervertebral discs in the spine, causing them to deteriorate and lose their ability to cushion and protect the vertebrae. It can lead to discomfort, stiffness, and limited mobility in the affected spinal area. If left untreated, the condition can worsen and cause more serious complications such as nerve damage or paralysis.

It is crucial to seek medical attention and follow a comprehensive treatment plan to manage degenerative disc disease symptoms and prevent further damage. Delaying treatment or ignoring symptoms can prolong recovery time and increase medical expenses. Therefore, it is advisable to start treatment promptly and be consistent with following the prescribed treatment plan.

Symptoms Of Degenerative Disc Disease

Pain, numbness, tingling in the afflicted region, weakness, and limited movement are all potential symptoms of degenerative disc degeneration. However, the specific degenerative disc disease symptoms depend on the location of the weak disc and whatever other alterations it has brought about. 

It is commonly characterized by pain in your upper thighs, buttocks, or lower back pain. The pain might persist for several days to a few months and can be mild or severe. Further, it is difficult to sit while standing, and walking can be comparatively easier.

Causes Of Degenerative Disc Disease

Here are the causes of degenerative disc disease discussed in detail below

  • Aging

Among the other potential degenerative disc disease causes, normal ageing frequently results in degenerative disc disease. The discs start to dry out with age and stop providing a cushion for the bones. Without the cushioning of the discs, the nerve roots or spinal cord (or both) start to get pinched or pressured, thus resulting in disc degeneration.

  • Genetics

Degenerative disc disease can, unfortunately, be passed on through families. Lumbar disc herniation, for example, occurs in families. Although age and heredity are changed, other lifestyle changes that accelerate degenerative disc disease symptoms can be modified. 

  • Injury

Injury can be one of the causes of degenerative disc disease. Minor injuries cause little fissures in your spinal discs. These rips frequently occur near nerves. Even tiny tears might cause discomfort. 

  • Lifestyle Factors

A higher risk of degenerative disc disease is associated with unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles. Smoking, bad posture, and a lack of exercise are some lifestyle factors that might contribute to degenerative disc disease. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help prevent or reduce the growth of this illness.

Other factors that can contribute to degenerative disc disease include alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as smoking, which impairs your body’s capacity to absorb calcium, which is required for strong bones.

Treatment Options For Degenerative Disc Disease

Conservative Approaches

  • Physical Therapy

Physical therapy and customised exercise regimens can help manage the discomfort associated with degenerative disc disease while enhancing strength and mobility. Focusing on strengthening your core muscles may have a major impact by reducing spinal tension. 

  • Medication

Over-the-counter medications OTC or prescription-strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), might temporarily relieve your degenerative disc disease-related pain sensations. 

Speaking with a healthcare practitioner before using it is crucial to ensure the medicine is safe and suitable for your condition and medical therapy. Taking medicines with other degenerative disc disease treatment options like physical therapy or lifestyle changes is suggested.  

  • Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic therapy is an effective part of degenerative disc disease treatment that aims to enhance joint mechanics by increasing spinal mobility and decreasing inflammation. The chiropractor may also try to improve the intervertebral discs’ function. 

To cure and alleviate your degenerative disc disease symptoms, your chiropractor may use specific spinal manipulation, flexion-distraction technique, and instrument-assisted manipulation. 

  • Lifestyle Changes

Some minor targeted modifications to one’s lifestyle can reduce the degenerative disc disease’s severity. Staying active and exercising is vital to solid pain management; an ideal mix of aerobic and strength-training activities is advised under such circumstances.

Use good form and body mechanics when participating in riding or swimming. When feasible, take regular breaks to relax your back muscles and encourage good posture habits.

Minimally Invasive Procedures

In cases where conventional degenerative disc disease treatment options are ineffective, other efforts become inevitable.

  • Injections

Injections are often the next step if you require more relief than oral drugs and non-drug treatments can provide. For degenerative disc disease treatment, these consist of

  1. Epidural corticosteroid injections, in which a potent anti-inflammatory medication (the corticosteroid) is injected into the fluid-filled area surrounding your spinal cord
  2. Nerve blocks, in which a painkiller is injected right into a nerve
  3. Trigger point injections involve injecting painkillers into neighbouring muscles.
  • Laser therapy

Laser therapy employs focused light beams to alleviate pain and inflammation. The laser’s light energy permeates deeply into your tissue, which is taken up by your cells and transformed into healing energy. Moreover, laser treatment can aid in boosting circulation and encouraging tissue restoration.

  • Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive surgery that employs radiofrequency radiation to block spinal neurons from communicating pain signals to the brain. RFA employs heat to target facet joints or the sacroiliac joint to relieve long-lasting pain in individuals with injuries or degenerative conditions.

Surgical Options

Minimally invasive surgical techniques can be quicker, safer, and require less recovery than open spine surgery. Minimally invasive spine (MIS) surgery often aims to stabilize the vertebral bones and spinal joints and reduce pressure on the spinal nerves. 

Less injury to muscles and soft tissue, reduced postoperative discomfort, a shorter hospital stay, and a speedier return to normal activities are all advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery. Minimally invasive surgical techniques include spinal fusion for disk disease, tumour removal, deformity correction, and lumbar spinal stenosis repair.

The optimal surgical strategy is chosen after considering the patient’s age, physical health, and medical history. Discussing your alternatives and any potential dangers or advantages with your doctor openly and honestly is crucial for comprehensive degenerative disc disease treatment.


Depending on the intensity of your pain and your general health, you may wish to seek alternative therapies to manage degenerative disc disease-related chronic pain. 

Regarding degenerative disc disease treatment, less invasive techniques can be a good substitute for open surgery. These operations entail fewer incisions, less blood loss, and quicker recovery times. Not all patients qualify for a minimally invasive procedure. 

Every surgery must be tailored to the patient and the method. Your doctor will determine which alternative treatment options are considered.

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