The Truth About Degenerative Disc Disease

Our spine specialists diagnose people with degenerative disc disease often in this practice.  We’ve come to know that many people are confused about what the diagnosis means and how it will impact their lives.  In this post, we’ll share the truth about it with you.

Most will be familiar with the term, but did you know that it’s not a disease?  The truth is that discs degenerate with time in all of us.  It is a normal process of aging, and the condition is not progressive in the manner we generally associate with the word “disease.”

The degeneration referred to in the diagnostic term is a process which has already occurred in the disc.  Receiving this diagnosis doesn’t mean, for example, that the severity of the pain will increase over time.  It means that there’s been a degenerative process which has effected the integrity of the spinal discs.


What spinal discs do?

Your discs are not unlike a car’s shock absorbers.  If you were to look inside them, you’d see that they’re filled with a gel-like substance.  What this substance consists of are proteins.  These proteins form a cushion inside each disc which prevents your vertebrae from rubbing together.

When there’s pressure on your spinal column, it can cause this substance to “leak” into the fibrous outer casing of your vertebrae.  When that happens, there’s pain.  That’s because the substance has made contact with sensitive nerve endings, which are your body’s early warning system that something’s going on.

Most people experience degeneration in the discs.

Degenerative disc disease, as we’ve established is neither a disease nor a condition which leads to progressive pain.  It’s also something most people will experience, as they age.  While not everyone develops the symptoms it can provoke, we all lose some spinal function over time, but without serious symptoms.  But when dysfunction in the spinal column leads to bulging or herniated discs though, the pain that results can be severe.

The good news is that degenerative disc disease is usually treatable with non-invasive, or minimally invasive therapeutic options.  Physiotherapy, pharmaceuticals and spinal injections may be indicated for the vast majority of cases.  These therapies are the ones your spinal specialist will try first.  It’s only when they fail to alleviate the pain you’re experiencing that a surgical option may be indicated.

That’s right.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.

We know degenerative disc disease can be painful, but misconceptions about the diagnostic term don’t require adding patient anxiety to the mix.  At Jersey Spine Associates, we think it’s important that patients know the truth about degenerative disc disease for that reason.

If you’re experiencing lower back pain, and/or weakness/numbness in the legs, you may have degenerative disc disease.  This blog post is intended to inform people who may suspect they have the condition.  It’s also to re-assure them that degenerative disc disease is treatable, often without resorting to surgery.

If you believe you may have degenerative disc disease, or have been diagnosed and are seeking expert treatment by a spinal specialist, Jersey Spine Associates are here to help.  Now that you know the whole truth about degenerative disc disease, let’s get on with your treatment.