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What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is the term used to describe the normal changes in the spinal discs as the body ages.

Vertebrae, which make up the spine, are separated by the soft disks. These discs act as shock absorbers. This condition occurs when one of these disks weakens.

Despite the name, it is not actually a disease. But that does not mean the pain it causes is less real. It can be very painful and can affect quality of life to a great extent. Disc degeneration is a normal part of aging, but for some individuals, it can cause severe and chronic pain.

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease

Following are some of the causes of degenerative disc disease:

  • The loss of fluid in the discs can be a cause. This makes the disk less flexible and reduces its ability to absorb shocks. This also reduces the distance between the vertebrae.
  • Annulus or capsule (the outer layer of disc) may be damaged or cracked. As a result the nucleus (jelly-like material inside the disc) may be forced to flow out of the cracks or tears. This may cause the disc to rupture, break into fragments or bulge.
  • A sudden injury to the disc can start disc degeneration
  • Smoking, heavy physical work and obesity can also cause degeneration.

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease include:

  • Pain in lower back which radiates to hips
  • Pain in thighs or buttocks while walking
  • In some cases, irregular tingling or weakness through the knees
  • Pain in upper spine which may radiate to shoulders, arms and hands