What is

Degenerative Disc Disease?

Patients may be concerned when hearing the term “degenerative disc disease”, also known as DDD, in describing their condition. It may sound debilitating, scary and progressive, but it is not actually a disease, nor is it completely degenerative. The symptoms will not become more severe over the years, as the name might imply. Rather, the term merely describes the process of the disc as it degenerates over time.

what are the


Low back pain and neck pain can be a result of degenerative disc disease; consistent symptoms related to this can be:

Pain is associated with a particular activity, and may “come and go” at will
The patient’s baseline, or “chronic” pain, can range in severity from very mild to moderate or be intense and disabling
Flare-up episodes can occur, be severe for days, weeks, or months, then return back to the baseline, chronic level
Disabling chronic pain from DDD is generally rare, but can happen
Bending, lifting, and twisting can aggravate the condition
Different positions can adversely affect the pain. Sitting can make lumbar degenerative disc pain worse, due to increased weight bearing pressure on the discs in the lower back
Prolonged standing or sitting may hurt more, but walking or running can surprisingly help reduce the discomfort
Moving around and changing positions can help offset the pain
Lying down with the legs propped up, or reclining with a pillow between the knees can take pressure off of the lumbar discs

What are the


Degenerative Disc Disease is believed to be attributed to two key factors: Inflammation and Abmormal Micromotion Instability.


Inflammation can be caused by proteins that are contained within the disc space. When sensitive nerves are clustered within a specific area, anything that causes pressure on these nerves will naturally cause pain. Since the spine is a super highway of nerves, it is extremely sensitive to inflammation.

Abnormal Micromotion Instability

Abnormal micromotion instability is a less severe form of the gross instability commonly associated with conditions like spondylolisthesis. The term annulus refers to the outer rings of the intervertebral discs. If the annulus wear down and therefore cannot effectively prevent motion in the spine, pain can occur.

Each of these factors can lead to low back pain and neck pain due to muscle spasms. When a muscle spasm occurs, it is the body’s reflexive reaction to an instability of the spine. These muscle spasms - the body’s instinctive muscular reflex to correct spinal instability - are believed to be the reason for the pain associated with degenerative disc disease.

What are the


Even for patients who are in significant pain, surgery is not the first option of treatment. Pain Management, Physical Therapy, Exercise, and Lifestyle changes are a few of the options to be considered before deciding on surgery for Degenerative Disc Disease. However, when quality of life is compromised and restoring functionality is not provided by non-surgical options, minimally invasive surgical options include:

Lumbar Fusion Surgery - to stabilize the segment of the vertebra
Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery (ADR) - Removing the affected disc and replacing it with an artificial one