What is a Degenerative Disc

Back Surgery Information

What is a Degenerative Disc?

There are millions of people all over the world diagnosed with mild to chronic back pain. As most people do not understand the medical terms associated with these injuries and illnesses, many often wonder what the diagnosis means. One of the most asked diagnostic questions is “What is a degenerative disc?" or “What is a degenerative disc disease?”. While the first question is rather relevant, as well as common, one should note that the second is more of a misnomer i.e. degenerative disc is not a progressive illness as the term suggests.

What is a Degenerative Disc?

A degenerative disc is one of the most common cases of back pain in the millions of back sufferers all over the world. Disc degeneration is unfortunately one of the negative effects of natural aging whereby the disc that sits between the vertebrae and helps protect it wears out. Therefore, all individuals regardless of location or race can be affected by some form of disc degeneration. The pain associated with degenerative discs may be as the result of simply wear and tear of the discs between the vertebrae or as the direct result of injury to the lower torso resulting in the wearing away of the disc.

Statistics estimate that at least a third of all people between the ages of 30 and 50 will exhibit some form of degenerative disc disease. However, the degree of pain may vary from one individual to the other. One of the most common forms of degenerative disc disease is the lumber degenerative disc disease.

Lumbar Degenerative Discs

Often when one asks, ‘What is a degenerative disc?’ they are referring to the lumbar disc which is the most likely to have problems since it supports the most body weight. Lumbar degenerative disease occurs when the inter-vertebrae discs of the lumbar section of the spinal cord begin to wear out causing the spinal lumbar vertebrae to grind against each other causing pain or the gel between the disc to leak out and touch sensitive nerves. Often, the pain may be tolerable but may occasionally flare up and be extremely severe and disabling. Common places where ruptured disc pain may be felt include the lower back, which may radiate to the hip and legs. Moreover, the pain may be notably worse as one sits or performs simple movements such as bending, twisting or lifting.

Lower back pain that results from this form of degenerative disease may be caused by inflammation due to the proteins in the disc space irritating the spinal nerves, as well as abnormal micro-motion instability. As the disc degenerates, the spinal column becomes unable to absorb the amount of stress generated by minor yet intensive movements leading to excruciating lower back pain.

The diagnosis of most degenerative disc diseases is performed through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). However, it should be noted that some image findings such as those depicting a disc collapse can be confused with a degenerative disc.

We hope this article has helped answer the question - what is a degenerative disc? Our website has a volume of information concerning herniated disc and back pain and we regularly add others as they become available.