What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease is a condition (it’s actually not a disease) that causes the discs in the spine to become damaged. Spinal discs serve as cushions or shock absorbers between the spinal bones (vertebrae) and help the spine remain flexible. Each disc comprises a rough outer shell that is full of nerves and a soft, fluid-filled center.
When a spinal disc becomes damaged it loses much of its cushioning properties, which causes the vertebrae to rub together. In a damaged disc, fluid in the center of the disc may leak out and irritate the nerves on the outside of the disc. Both of these effects cause acute back pain that makes it difficult to move the back normally. Degenerative disc disease pain primarily affects the lower back, but may also cause pain that radiates through the hands and feet.
Causes of Disc Degeneration
Age is a contributing factor in most cases of degenerative disc disease, but not everyone who ages will develop this painful condition. Common causes of degenerative disc disease include:
- Normal wear and tear from sports and daily activities
- Loss of fluid that causes the center of the disc to dry out
- Trauma or injury that causes swelling or soreness