Category Archives: Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) can be painful, but it’s not quite as dire as it sounds due to its misnomer. The term “degenerative” implies to most people that the symptoms will get progressively worse with age, but this is not the case. And technically, it’s not a disease, but a condition of a degenerative or damaged intervertebral disc. This occurs as a natural part of aging due to strain, overuse, and maybe even misuse. As you age, discs – which act like pillow-like cushions between your vertebrae – start to lose its flexibility, elasticity, and its ability to cushion your movements.  DDD occurs when the outer layer of a disc becomes structurally unsound, usually with small cracks and tears. These tears in the disc can cause nerve inflammation or irritation, making it uncomfortable to sit for long periods of time. Over time, this can cause instability and misalignment of the spine. Fortunately in many cases, people with DDD actually improve over time.

If you find yourself having back pain flareups generally made worse with sitting, consider talking to your doctor to get officially diagnosed with an MRI scan. In the meanwhile, here are some tips to help manage degenerative disc disease pain:

  • Physical Therapy – Seek out a physical therapist that can help design exercises and movement habits tailored to your evaluation and physical needs.
  • Seat Cushions – Make prolonged sitting at home, at work, or in the car more bearable with seat cushions. We have a variety to choose from to match you wherever and anywhere you’re seated.
  • Cold/heat therapy – Sooth flare-ups and tired muscles with hot & cold therapy. Alternate with our ProtoCold Reusable Cold Therapy Pads followed by our MediBeads Moist Heat Pads. They’re both safe, effective, clean, convenient, and easy to use.
  • Medications: In the case that pressure on nerves is caused by inflammation, take over-the-counter pain relievers.

Explore one of our more than 100 stores for additional information and a personal assessment by one of our trained associates.


Degenerative Disc Disease

presented-by-spine-universeDegenerative disc disease (DDD) is a normal part of aging. Some people do not know they have DDD until symptoms start. DDD can cause disc structure to change. Discs in the neck (cervical spine) and low back (lumbar spine) can lose normal height decreasing the size of nerve pathways. Nerve impingement, inflammation and pain can develop. The loss of disc height also affects the amount of space between the spine’s joints; the facet joints. Lost space in between the facet joints can result in osteoarthritis (spondylosis), inflammation, and pain that may be constant.


The type of symptoms you experience may depend on the level of the spine affected by degenerative disc disease and its severity.

Cervical (Neck)
Lumbar (Low Back)
Neck pain
Low back pain
Pain that spreads (radiates) into the shoulders, upper, down one or both arms
Pain that spreads (radiates) into the buttocks, thighs, down one or both legs
Numbness, tingling sensations
Numbness, tingling sensations

Talk with your doctor

Sudden pain or pain that is severe, or that becomes chronic or progressive, requires evaluation by your doctor. Perhaps your doctor has already diagnosed you with degenerative disc disease. If that is the case, he will want to know about any new symptoms, especially weakness, problems with balance or when walking, or bladder or bowel dysfunction.


Your doctor collects and compares information gathered while talking with you about your medical history and past and existing symptoms. A physical and neurological examination looks for limitations of movement, balance difficulties, and what exacerbates and relieves pain. During the exam he tests your reflexes, muscle strength, sensations, or other signs of neurologic loss.

A set of plain x-rays help to rule out other disorders such as infection or tumor. The x-rays also reveal information about disc height. Other imaging tests may be ordered by your doctor to study and confirm your diagnosis and direct your treatment plan.


Most cases of cervical and lumbar degenerative disc disease do not require surgery. Often, one or more non-surgical treatments are very effective at relieving symptoms. These include:

  • Medications: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and pain; muscle relaxants to calm spasm; and, occasionally narcotic painkillers.
  • Cold/heat therapy
  • Spinal injections
  • Physical therapy: stretching to increase flexibility, therapeutic exercise to build muscle strength and endurance; posture and importance of maintaining good posture (ergonomics) at rest, work, and during other activities.
  • Chiropractic
  • Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture

Surgery may be recommended if pain cannot be managed, spinal instability develops, or neurologic symptoms develop or progress. Your doctor will explain why he recommends surgery and the type of procedure involved, including what to expect before and after surgery.