Degenerative Disc Disease

Learn what Degenerative Disc Disease is and how it can be controlled.

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• Health: Diet • Health: Medical
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Matt Anderson's Take

What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?


Degenerative Disc Disease, or DDD as it is often abbreviated, is actually just a term that describes what is a normal change to your spinal discs over time.

The discs in your spine actually work like small shock absorbers between each of your vertebrae bones. As you walk, jump, or generally go about your day to day life, those discs absorb shocks that would otherwise cause your body some serious injury and pain. They're basically like Dr. Scholl's shoe inserts, but for your back.

As you age, those discs become less and less effective. Most people who are over the age of 60 have some level of DDD. Even with some degree of disc degeneration, not every person experiences extreme (or any) neck or back pain that is often associated with the disease.

Why Do Spinal Discs Degenerate?


Each of your spinal discs contain a large amount of water in them. As you grow older, the discs tend to dehydrate. This can be due to extreme sports and injuries where small tears develop in the discs or even just from daily wear and tear on your body. Because spinal discs don't get a lot of blood flow, they aren't able to repair themselves as well as other areas of your body.

Over time, as the water content in the discs drops there is less and less shock absorbing effect. This results in thinner discs which offer smaller spaces between vertebrae. Smaller gaps can lead to less flexibility, added pain, and inflammation.

Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms


Symptoms can vary based on the individual, the level of severity, and which discs are impacted. Some of the most common symptoms include back pain (even down to the legs), neck pain (possibly out to the hands), tingling or numbness in legs and arms, headaches, and a reduced range of motion.

Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnoses & Treatment


To get a proper diagnoses, consult your doctor who can perform a physical exam. Depending on how that goes, they may run an MRI which may show the level of spinal disc damage you have.

If you do suffer from DDD there are medications that may help. The most common would be
over the counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen type drugs. Keep in mind that many over the counter pain medications, some known as NSAIDS, carry their own risks. Be sure to also read What Are Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)?

In more extreme cases your doctor may recommend surgery. In less extreme cases a simple hot or cold pack may help ease your pain. Physical therapy is also a common treatment for sufferers of DDD.


In almost all cases, some level of physical activity in general along with a proper diet can help as well. Talk with your doctor about how you can improve your overall lifestyle and exercise a little common sense. Skip that delicious cheesesteak and opt for a salad instead, I like Matt's Miracle Salad Recipe. If you're overweight, then dropping a few pounds can take some weight off of those discs and possibly ease your pain.

Other good reads on the subject of health include 10 Pain Fighting Foods, 6 Simple Ways To Cut 250 Calories Per Day, A Healthy Lifestyle - Where Do You Start?, and Are Processed Foods Bad For Your Health? to name a few.
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