Degenerative Disc Disease is an age-related disease that arises from normal wear-and-tear on the spine. It involves the breakdown of the structure of the intervertebral discs that cushion each of the joints in the spine. The discs may lose some of their inner fluid layer, becomes thinner, and less durable. Due to these changes, they are more likely to spread out (bulging disc), tear (annular tearc), or have the inner layer push through the outer layer (herniated disc or extruded disc).
Causes and Symptoms
Many individuals with degenerative disc disease do not have any symptoms related to it. However, others may experience pain to the point that they are unable to carry out their daily activities. The most common symptom of the early part of the disease is pain from the lower back to the upper buttocks and upper thighs (sciatica).
Degeneration (breakdown) of intervertebral discs due to normal aging processes
Traumatic injury, usually due to high-impact sports or motor vehicle accident
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor will carry out a physical exam to check your nerve function, muscle strength, and movements that cause pain. Most people over 40 have at least some evidence of degenerative disc disease in diagnostic imaging, such as MRI. The doctor may carry out a discography, a procedure in which dye is injected into intervertebral discs to determine if they are damaged.