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Degenerative Disc Disease

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.

Last Revised: March 12, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics

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