Degenerative Disc Disease of the Back

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) of the back is a condition in which the intervertebral discs that cushion the vertebrae in the spine degenerate or break down over time. These discs act as shock absorbers and facilitate movement of the spine. As they deteriorate, the discs can become less effective at cushioning the vertebrae, which can cause various spinal problems including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and osteoarthritis. DDD can occur in any part of the spine, but it is most commonly seen in the lower back (lumbar spine) or neck (cervical spine).

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease of the Back

The exact cause of degenerative disc disease is not known, but it is generally believed to be a result of aging and wear and tear on the spine. Other factors that can contribute to the development of DDD include:

Genetics: Some people may be predisposed to developing DDD due to genetic factors.

Injuries: Trauma or injuries to the spine can accelerate the degeneration of spinal discs.

Repetitive motions: Activities that involve repetitive bending, twisting, and lifting can increase the risk of developing DDD.

Obesity: Excess weight can put added pressure on the spinal discs, contributing to their degeneration.

Smoking: Smoking has been shown to decrease blood flow to the spinal discs, which can lead to their degeneration.

Signs and Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease of the Back

The symptoms of degenerative disc disease vary depending on the severity of the condition and the location of the affected discs. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Back pain: This is the most common symptom of degenerative disc disease, and it can be chronic or intermittent.
  • Radiating pain: Patients may experience pain that radiates to other parts of the body, such as the legs, arms, or buttocks.
  • Numbness and tingling: Patients may experience numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
  • Weakness: Degenerative disc disease can cause weakness in the arms or legs, which can interfere with daily activities.
  • Loss of flexibility: Patients may experience a decrease in flexibility and range of motion.

Treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease of the Back

The treatment for degenerative disc disease depends on the severity of the condition and the extent of the patient’s symptoms. Treatment options include:

Physiotherapy: Physical therapy can help relieve pain and improve mobility in patients with degenerative disc disease. Physiotherapists may recommend exercises to strengthen the back muscles, improve posture, and increase flexibility.

Medication: Painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants can help manage pain and discomfort caused by degenerative disc disease.

Corticosteroid injections: Corticosteroids can be injected into the affected area to help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove damaged discs or fuse the affected vertebrae.

Lifestyle changes: Patients with degenerative disc disease can benefit from making certain lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and engaging in low-impact exercises.

In conclusion, degenerative disc disease of the back is a condition in which the spinal discs that cushion the vertebrae degenerate over time, leading to various spinal problems. Treatment options include physiotherapy, medication, corticosteroid injections, surgery, and lifestyle changes. If you experience any symptoms of degenerative disc disease, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about degenerative disc disease of the back please call us at 03 9836 1126.



Degenerative Disc Disease – Mayo Clinic
Degenerative Disc Disease – American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Degenerative Disc Disease – Cleveland Clinic
Physical Therapy for Degenerative Disc Disease – Spine-Health

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