4 Degenerative Disc Disease, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments


Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is otherwise referred to as spondylitis. Degenerative disc disease is a condition affecting the intervetebral disc, which serve as cushions for support, in the space between the two vertebrae. Degenerative changes in the vertebrae occurs as a part of aging.

It is a painful condition causing pain in the back. It can also affect the young, where there may be periods of severe pain brought by an acute stress or injury. The disc if prolapsed, or the formation of osteophytes could cause compression of a nerve resulting in pain and numbness.

Causes Of Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is often caused by the process of aging. It commonly affects the lumbar and cervical spines. The whole of vertebrae may be affected as well. The vertebrae is mainly composed of cartilage. The cartilage undergoes degenerative changes as part of aging.


Smoking and obesity are predisposing factors for degenerative disc disease.  Another cause for degenerative disc disease could be as a result of an injury. Degenerative disc disease could cause the formation of  osteophytes. Osteophytes are bony spurs which usually develops along the margin of the body of vertebrae.

Symptoms Of Degenerative Disc Disease

The symptoms of degenerative disc disease usually depends on the area of the vertebrae involved. Pain is the most common symptom of degenerative disc disease. If the cervical vertebrae are affected the pain will be usually around the neck region, sometimes extending to either of the arms and hands. If the lumbar vertebrae are affected, the pain is usually felt around the region of hips.


Much of the pain will be at the site of degenerative changes with pain radiating to the sides of the hips. There may be severe excruciating pain, limiting one’s mobility or even the day to day activities. Others may notice not so severe pain initially then progressing into a chronic state. For those who enjoy pain free periods, the onset of pain could be caused by an injury or some physical stress like lifting heavy objects. That is why people with degenerative disc changes are advised not to lift weights.

As said earlier there may be compression of a nerve that lies in the path of the vertebrae involved. This results in severe pain and numbness. Some could also experience burning sensation along the course of the nerve.


Diagnosis is usually made by x-ray of the area involved. Other imaging like MRI scanning usually gives much more appropriate results. It is always advisable to correlate the symptoms with investigation results.



Physical therapy often provides much relief to the pain. Exercises aimed to strengthen the muscles of the back is also helpful. Conservative management often uses pain killers like acetaminophen or non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs to help relieve the pain. This may not always be helpful.


Surgical measures are also advised for those who do not benefit from conservative measures. For such people, surgery involves removal of the damaged disc followed by fusion of the vertebrae. This is done so as to prevent any injury to the exposed spinal cord. Another lesser used surgical procedure is replacement with artificial disc.