Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease refers to the symptoms of back or neck pain caused by wear and tear on a spinal disc. It is one of the most common causes of low back and neck pain, and in some cases can cause weakness, numbness, and hot, shooting pains in the arms or legs. Despite the use of the term “disease,” degenerative disc disease is not a disease, but a condition caused by natural, age-related wear and tear on a spinal disc.
The most common symptom of degenerative disc disease is a low-grade, continuous pain around the degenerating disc that can occasionally flare up into more severe and potentially disabling pain. These flare ups can be the result of recent activity or abnormal stress on the spine, or can occur with no apparent cause. Other common symptoms include increased pain with activities that involve bending or twisting the spine or lifting something heavy, a “giving out” sensation, muscle tension or spasms, radiating pain in various parts of the body that feels sharp, stabbing, or hot, increased pain when holding certain positions such as sitting, standing, or looking down at something, reduced pain when changing positions frequently, and decreased pain with certain positions such as sitting in a reclining position or lying down with a pillow under the knees.
If the pain from degenerative disc disease is severe and non-surgical treatments such as pain medication or physical therapy are ineffective, then surgery may be used to address it. A spinal fusion, where two adjacent vertebrae are grafted together, is the most common procedure used for degenerative disc disease, but artificial disc replacement has recently become another frequently used option.