Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is less of a disease and more of a general term used to describe the deterioration of the intervertebral discs in the spine. Degenerative of lumbar discs is a normal part of aging and most people over the age of 40 will have some disc degeneration in the spine.
What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease in the Lumbar Spine?
As we age, the space between the vertebrae or bones of the lumbar spine decreases due to disc degeneration. Discs will desiccate or shrink in size and the outer covering, called the annulus fibrosus loses elasticity and weakens, putting the disc at increased risk of bulging or tearing. Healthy young discs are spongy and flexible in order to protect vertebral bones from friction and to allow the human body to conduct normal activities such as running, bending, jumping and twisting without discomfort or pain. Lumbar disc degeneration can lead to a variety of conditions, including osteoarthritis, bulging discs, herniated discs, and stenosis.
Degenerative disc disease is diagnosed through physical exam and diagnostic imaging such as X-ray or MRI scan.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease in the Lumbar Spine
DISC DEGENERATION can lead to painful symptoms such as:
- Lower back pain
- Pain that can intensify with increased physical activity or prolonged periods of inactivity
- Pain when twisting, lifting or sitting
- Sciatica or pain that radiates into the gluten and legs
The MISI Approach to treating degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine
If lower back pain does not resolve within a few months, it is important to see a spine specialist to discuss treatment options. Medication, modifying physical activity, physical therapy, and injections can often relieve the pain caused by degenerative disc disease.
If surgery is required to treat the underlying condition causing pain, minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures at the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute allow patients to avoid traditional open back surgery. Procedures are safer, more effective and often out-patient, allowing patients to avoid the risk of complications associated with open back surgery.
Dr. Bryce Benbow has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.