Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease and sciatica facts

We all know that the discs of the spine are the cushions between the vertebral segments. With degeneration, the disc becomes more vulnerable to herniation which can cause localized or radiating pain. Sciatica is a condition in which the lumbar disc herniates so there is irritation in the nerves in the lower back due to spinal osteoarthritis. 

Degenerative disc disease

 Our body loses water and protein content as we age which results in fragile cartilage. Trauma or injury in the spine can also lead to this condition. The medical term for the disease is Spondylosis.

Treatment for degenerative disc disease

Occupational therapy, physical therapy, medications, weight loss, special exercises may be employed to treat the patient.

Facet joint injections involves injecting the joints located near the damaged disc with steroids.These injections are known as facet joint injections that provide pain relief in the condition.

Facet rhizotomy is a technique which uses  radiofrequency current to numb the nerves surrounding the facet joint, which inhibits the transmission of  pain signals to the brain. Patients who show a good response to facet joint injections are likely to benefit from this technique as well. The patients  feel relieved from the pain for more than a year’s duration.

Intradiscal electrothermal annuloplasty (IDET) involves the insertion of a catheter into the disc which is  heated after the insertion. This causes a reduction in pain. Medicines for this condition include pain relievers such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ) such as ibuprofen.Tylenol is also effective in treating this condition. The doctor may also prescribe steroids and muscle relaxers.

Some positions like kneeling or reclining may help experience less pain than felt in the sitting position.

People can also use a corset or brace to get support for the back.

Laminotomy, a procedure which is a surgery carried out through a small hole in the bone surrounding the spinal cord attempts to remove the herniated disc.

Laminectomy, which removes the bony wall near the nerve tissues may also be used. Disc-dissolving procedures like chemonucleolysis may also be used.

Degenerative Disc Disease Symptom

  • The condition is usually characterized by pain in the lower back.
  • It can also lead to herniation of the disc.
  • The condition can affect the spine of the neck and is known as cervical disc disease. 
  • Similarly, when it affects the mid-back, the condition is called thoracic disc disease.
  • Disc degeneration in the lumbar spine region causes pain in the lower back or causing pain in the spinal nerve which can be felt down the leg. This condition is known as sciatica.
  • It can also lead to osteoarthritis of the joints which results in lumbar pain. 


Aging, daily stress and occasional injuries, even minor ones can damage the discs. Other changes that contribute to the condition are :

Loss of fluid: As we age, the fluid content of the intervertebral discs starts decreasing. The discs are thinner, the intervertebral distance between the discs becomes smaller, and the cushioning becomes weaker.

Disc structure: Injuries in the outer layer of the disc can lead to leakage of the gelatinous material in the inner part  which may lead to disc rupture.


Your doctor will make a diagnosis according to your medical history and your symptoms. He may ask you about the time when the pain started, and about the part of your spine that hurts. He will also enquire about whether the pain has spread to some other parts of your body, and whether you had spine injuries in the past. It will be beneficial to let the doctor know if there is a family history of the condition. He will check the condition of your spine and check which movement causes pain to you.

X-ray or MRI may be recommended for ascertaining the condition of your spine.

 A discogram test is also suggested in some cases. A dye is injected into the soft centre of the disc to see whether it pains. The path of the dye is shown through a CT scan or   X-ray.

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