Degenerative Disk Disease
(Degenerative Disc Disease)
by Krisha McCoy, MS
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 these disks. This wear and tear causes pain and other symptoms. Some degeneration is normal as you 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.
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may incerase your chance for degenerative disk disease:
Symptoms of degenerative disk disease include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Other tests may include:
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:
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.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
North American Spine Society
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Bogduk N, Anat D. Degenerative joint disease of the spine. Radiol Clin North Am. 2012;15(4):613-28.
Degenerative disc disease. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center website.
Available at: http://www.csmc.edu/5757.html . Accessed July 2, 2007.
Degenerative disk disease. University of Pittsburgh, Department of Neurosurgery website. Available at: http://www.neurosurgery.pitt.edu/spine/conditions/ddd.html . Accessed July 2, 2007.
Paassilta P, Lohiniva J, Göring HH, et al. Identification of a novel common genetic risk factor for lumbar disk disease. JAMA . 2001;285:1843-1849.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2012
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