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Understanding Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is not actually a disease but is a condition where one or more discs between vertebrae deteriorate. These damaged discs can cause pain, primarily in the back or neck. This condition occurs as individuals age and is closely associated with other issues including osteoarthritis, herniated or bulging discs and spinal stenosis. Symptoms range from mild to debilitating and the most common symptoms are back and neck pain, which often intensifies when individuals bend, stretch or twist. For some, this condition also causes, numbness, tingling and weakness in the arms (cervical radiculopathy) or legs (sciatica)


Spinal discs are soft, gel-like materials that act as shock absorbers for vertebrae in the spinal column. When these discs get squeezed or compacted, they are no longer able to serve this purpose. The result is that the spine is less flexible and not able to bend, twist or stretch as it once did. 

Disc degeneration is usually caused by either a loss of fluid in the spinal discs, which makes them thinner and less flexible, or by cracks or tears in the disc’s outer layer, leading to a bulge or rupture. Compared to other tissues of the body, discs have a very low blood supply. This means that once injured, discs are less able to repair themselves, and the process of degeneration begins. 

While the natural aging process is the leading cause for this degenerative disease, other factors that make individuals more prone to this condition are obesity, an occupation that involves regular heavy lifting, smoking or an acute injury. 


Treatment plans for this condition usually involve a variety of treatment options including physical therapy, occupational therapy, lifestyle changes and medications. In addition, there are a number of minimally invasive treatments that can effectively provide pain relief including facet joint injections, epidural steroid injections, and spinal cord stimulation (pacemaker for pain). In very extreme and limited cases, surgery is necessary. 

When determining how to address degenerative disc disease, it’s important to remember that if it’s not treated, conditions will worsen over time. If you’re experiencing back or neck pain and are concerned that it is caused by degenerative disc disease, contact Glaser Pain Relief Center to learn more about your treatment options or to schedule a consultation in our Encino, California office. 

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