What is degenerative disc disease (DDD)?

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.

Dr. Stephen Q. Parker, MD
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialist

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.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

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.

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.

Diet for a Pain-Free Life

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Diet for a Pain-Free Life

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.