Degenerative disc disease is a wear and tear of the discs between spinal bones (vertebrae). Healthy discs act like cushions to protect the spine and help it stay flexible.
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Degenerative discs may be caused be:
This problem is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Problems may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health past. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the spine. Images of the spine may be taken with:
Your nerves may be evaluated. This can be done with an electromyogram and nerve conduction studies.
There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. First steps may include:
People who are not helped by first steps may need surgery. Choices are:
The risk of back problems may be lowered by:
North American Spine Society
Ortho Info—American Academy
of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Degenerative Disc Disease. Hospital for Special Surgery website. Available at: https://www.hss.edu/condition-list_degenerative-disc-disease.asp. Accessed February 17, 2021.
Deyo RA, Mirza SK. CLINICAL PRACTICE. Herniated Lumbar Intervertebral Disk. N Engl J Med. 2016 May 5;374(18):1763-1772.
Low back pain. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.org/en/diseases--conditions/low-back-pain. Accessed February 17, 2021.
Lumbar disk herniation. EBSCO Dynamed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/lumbar-disk-herniation. Accessed February 17, 2021.
Madera M, Brady J, Deily S, et al. The role of physical therapy and rehabilitation after lumbar spinal fusion surgery for degenerative Disease: a systematic review. J Neurosurg:Spine.2017:26(6):694-704.
Shi WB, Agbese E, et a;. Performance of pain interventionalists from different specialties in treating degenerative disk disease-related low back pain, Arch Rehab Res Clin Trans. 2020; 2(3).
Last reviewed February 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT
Last Updated: 2/17/2021