Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is the term for normal changes in your spinal discs that occur with aging. Spinal discs are soft and compressible and act as shock absorbers for the spine, allowing you to bend, twist, etc. With age there are changes to the discs because of injury, loss of fluid, tears, cracks, etc. The degenerative disc condition typically occurs in the lower back and neck. Depending on the location of the affected disc, you may experience severe pain in your back, neck, arm and leg.

Overview and Symptoms

Overview and Symptoms

Your physician will review your medical history and do a physical exam. During the physical exam, your physician will:

  • Check your range of motion and pain caused by movement in the affected area.
  • Look for areas of tenderness and any nerve-related changes, such as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected area, or changes in reflexes.

Check for other conditions, such as fractures, tumors, and infection.


To relieve pain, your physicians will recommend hot or cold packs (whichever feels better) and pain relievers.

If you develop other health problems such as osteoarthritis, a herniated disc, or spinal stenosis, you may physical therapy or, in some cases, surgery.