What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is an age-related condition. It occurs when the discs between the vertebra deteriorate or break down, causing pain. These intervertebral discs normally act as shock absorbers for the bones of the spine. But due to simple wear and tear, the spinal discs lose their cushioning ability as you get older. Disc degeneration is a normal part of ageing, but it doesn’t cause everyone pain—and it is treatable.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

Your spinal discs can change is several ways as you age:

Loss of fluid: Healthy spinal discs are made up of mostly fluid. As you age, the discs lose fluid, which makes them thinner. This means they are less effective as shock absorbers.

Structural issues: A disc can develop tiny tears or cracks in its outer layer. This can allow the softer inner layer to seep out, resulting in a ruptured disc.

These issues may also lead to other problems as the spine becomes less stable. That includes:

Bone spurs: the formation of abnormal growths along the edge of a bone.

Herniated disc: a disc bulges out of its normal position and may put pressure on a nerve.

Spinal stenosis: the spinal canal becomes more narrow which may put pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root.

Signs and Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

The symptoms of degenerative disc disease can vary widely. For some people, disc degeneration causes no symptoms at all. For others, the pain can be so bad that it’s debilitating. 

But the most common symptoms of degenerative disc disease include:

Pain and weakness in the back

  • Muscle spasms in the lower back or neck
  • Pain that worsens with certain movements like twisting or bending
  • Pain that worsens when sitting
  • Pain and weakness that radiates from the back to other areas: 
    • If the damaged disc is in the lower back, pain may radiate to the buttocks, thighs, and lower extremities.
    • If the damaged disc is in the upper back or neck, pain can radiate to the shoulders and arms.

How is Degenerative Disc Disease Treated?

If the symptoms are mild enough, degenerative disc disease is sometimes treated at home with simple remedies like rest and ice packs.
But if you’re dealing with moderate to severe pain or physical limitations from degenerative disc disease, you should consider getting treatment from a medical professional. The treatment options include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Spinal fusion surgery: involves fusing two vertebrae together to give the spine more stability.
  • Decompression surgery: is used to relieve pressure on nerves by removing part of a disc.

Physiotherapy for Degenerative Disc Disease

Physical therapy offers an effective and non-invasive way to help you overcome the pain and physical limitations of degenerative disc disease. Physiotherapists at Activa Clinics can identify exactly what issues you’re facing and then create a custom treatment plan to solve them. The treatment plan can combine a range of therapies, including:

How to Prevent Degenerative Disc Disease

Disc degeneration is a normal part of ageing, so it is not preventable. However, there are several ways you can help slow down the process and avoid painful symptoms:

  • Lose excess weight
  • Pay attention to your posture
  • Don’t smoke
  • Reduce your risk for back injuries by lifting properly and stretching regularly

Book an Appointment

If you are dealing with pain from degenerative disc disease, you should seek medical advice. At Activa Clinics, our knowledgeable healthcare professionals can help you determine exactly what issues you’re facing—and the most effective ways to treat them.