Degenerative Disc Disease

NJ Spine Center Dr. Gerstman

This is a condition in which a damaged disc causes pain ranging from nagging to disabling. Nearly everyone’s discs break down as we age, however it’s not always painful. Common causes are the dehydration of discs over time, activities, sports, or injury.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in your lower back, buttocks, or thighs
  • Intermittent pain that may be nagging or severe, lasting from days to months
  • Increased pain when sitting, and less pain when moving and walking
  • Increased pain when bending, lifting, or twisting
  • Feeling better when changing positions or lying down

On exam, your doctor will ask you when the pain began, where it hurts, if it has spread, if you’ve experienced any past spinal injuries, or if you have a family history of similar issues. Your doctor will also examine your spine for pain in your lower back or neck, and may ask you to walk or bend to isolate the location of the pain. If needed, X-rays or an MRI are ordered to check for bone or nerve damage.

Treatments generally consist of over-the-counter pain relievers to help fight inflammation and ease pain. If your disc degeneration leads to muscle spasms, your doctor may recommend medicines to relieve them. Physical therapy is recommended to help strengthen specific muscle groups and increase flexibility. Epidural steroid injections can ease pain and decrease inflammation.

In most cases, physical therapy and a short course of medication provide long term relief. However, surgery may be recommended for those who still suffer from disabling pain. Should surgery be needed, your health and spinal problem are carefully considered to determine the best approach to returning you to the best quality of life as quickly as possible.