Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disk disease, or DDD, is a natural part of aging. But that does not mean you have to live with the pain it can cause. Our Spine Surgery Program is skilled at the most advanced techniques used today for alleviating the symptoms of DDD.

What is Degenerative Disk Disease (DDD)?

Degenerative disk disease describes the changes that occur in spinal disks as we age. These disks serve as padding and shock absorbers between the vertebrae of the spinal column. Over time, they degenerate, or break down, causing pain.

Degenerative disk disease can lead to other back conditions, including:

What Causes Degenerative Disk Disease?

DDD is part of the aging process. As we get older, we lose some of the fluid that gives the disks their padding and elasticity.

Factors that can make a degenerative disk worse include:

  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Excessive weight

Symptoms of DDD

Symptoms of degenerative disk disease include:

  • Lower back or neck pain, often worse when sitting
  • Tingling or numbness in the legs or feet

How is DDD Diagnosed?

Your doctor will order more than one test to determine whether you have degenerative disk disease. In addition to a complete physical exam and medical history, your doctor will order imaging tests such as:

  • X-ray: Imaging test that takes pictures of your bones to detect any changes in the height of the discs
  • MRI: Imaging test that takes pictures of your spinal disc and can show the water content

Treatments for Degenerative Disk Disease

There are many non-surgical treatments for DDD to help alleviate pain, but the most effective route is surgery. Your doctor will discuss the best option for you. Treatments include:

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can help you learn how to move, lift and bend so you experience less pain.
  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) include over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, which can be effective for back pain.
  • Epidural steroid injections: These injections treat your pain right at the source. We inject the medication into your spine during a quick, outpatient procedure, and effects can last for months.
  • Surgery: Surgical options include:
    • Cervical or lumbar disk replacement: Replaces a degenerated disk with a metal or plastic implant
    • Spinal fusion: Fuses together a series of vertebrae to immobilize them, preventing them from pinching nerves and causing pain.

Contact Us

For more information or for a physician referral, please call (813) 644-4322.