Joint Health

What is degenerative disc disease (DDD)?

A Answers (5)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
    Most Common Causes of Lower Back Pain
    Degenerative disk disease refers to a process of weakening and breakdown of the intervertebral disks in the spine.  Watch the animation to see how this happens.

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  • AStephen Q Parker, MD, Physical Medicine/rehabilitation, answered on behalf of MDLIVE
    As to the definition of degenerative disk disease, it should be noted that degenerative disk disease is simply age appropriate degeneration of the spinal or vertebral disk that serve as shock absorbers between vertebrae which are the bones that make up the spine. Over time the disk lose integrity, both its fluid content and its plasticity or its flexibility thereby leading to changes in the orientation from vertebrae to vertebrae which also changes the orientation of the spinal canals which is where the spinal nerves exit and the combination of these changes certainly can contribute to low back pain. Osteoarthritis which is basically arthritis brought on by wear and tear, this wear and tear can certainly contribute to micro injury to the disk itself and again secondary to changes in the architecture of the disk itself can lead to changes in the orientation from vertebrae to vertebrae which affect the spinal canals and can cause an irritation and inflammation in the areas of the back that are affected by this difficulty. These changes are seen quite frequently in people who are heavy smokers, overweight, sudden losses or gains in weight, and in also people who perform improperly heavy lifting due to poor body mechanics, etc.
  • AUCLA Health answered
    Degenerative disc disease is basically wear and tear or arthritis of the discs, which are the cushions between the bones in your spine. You have discs all the way from the top of your neck to the bottom of your lower back, and these are baring the load of your body weight whenever you’re walking, standing, sitting and doing any activities. When these begin to deteriorate, we call this degenerative disc disease.
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  • AHealthwise answered

    Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is not really a disease but a term used to describe the normal changes of the discs in the spine as a person ages. The breakdown of the discs can result in back pain, neck pain, or other problems.

    Age-related changes that cause DDD include a loss of fluid in the discs and tiny tears or cracks in the outer layer (annulus or capsule) of the disc. A sudden (acute) injury leading to a herniated disc may also begin the degeneration process.

    Pain from DDD is first treated with ice or heat and with over-the-counter medicines. If you develop health problems such as osteoarthritis, a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. You may need other treatments. These include physical therapy and exercises. In some cases, surgery may be recommended.

    This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. To learn more visit

    © Healthwise, Incorporated.

  • AHarris McIlwain, MD, Pain Medicine, answered
    In disk disease, the cartilage disk that is the cushion between two vertebral bones becomes weak, and the contents of the disk protrude to cause pressure on a nerve coming from the spine. This happens most commonly in the lumbar spine of the lower back, resulting in lower back pain and pain that travels down one or both legs. It can also affect the middle, upper back, or neck portions of the spine.

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Are prescription medications available for degenerative disc disease?