Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc DiseaseDegenerative Disc Disease is NOT a disease, but rather a condition that can occasionally cause pain from a disc or several discs in your spine that are worn out.

By the age of 50, 85% of the population will have some degree of degenerative disc disease, however, only a small percentage will have pain and discomfort associated with degenerative disc disease.


How does this happen?

As we age, our spine ages, this is a natural process. During this time, the disc, which is the cushion between the bones of your spine, becomes more rigid and dries out. The inner substance of the disc becomes less jelly like. This makes the spine more stiff when it moves. As well, the cushion becomes flatter, which means the walls of the discs bulge out more than usual. Boney changes occur to the spine and the edges of the bone start to develop sharp edges (bone spurs or osteophyte formation) because of the wear and tear on the spine during your life. All of these changes are normal and usually not painful or symptomatic.

However, these changes can occur at an earlier age, depending on what you have done in your life. Factors like your job (heavy lifting), or sport, or if you have had a fall or motor vehicle accident, will speed up this degenerative process. Degeneration of the disc can occur at one or many levels of your spine. The process becomes problematic when the flattened discs or the bone spurs pinch or put pressure on the nerves and other structures in the spine, causing pain and loss and movement or function.


Degenerative Disc SymptomsWhat are the signs and symptoms?

General stiffness, especially in the morning.
Loss of movement in the spine when you bend forwards or backwards.
Functional activities like putting your socks on or getting dressed, bending to pick up items from the floor, all become difficult.
Pain in the low back, occasionally radiating into the buttocks, and down the legs, if something is touching the nerve roots in your low back (a bone spur, or the flattened disc). In severe cases, loss of sensation/numbness or weakness in the legs can occur due to degenerative disc disease.



There are many ways to effectively treat degenerative disc disease, including physiotherapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise. If you are not able to successfully resolve your back pain with these treatment methods, spinal decompression therapy is an excellent option for treating back pain and/or sciatica from degenerative disc disease.