Degenerative disc disease is a scary sounding condition which is actually a completely normal and expected part of the spinal aging processes. This universal condition has been elevated to disease status by doctors who need a scapegoat to explain chronic back or neck pain which would otherwise be deemed idiopathic.
While it is possible to suffer advanced degenerative changes in the spine which can cause pain and even spinal instability, this is the extreme exception to the rule. Virtually all patients diagnosed with DDD are simply demonstrating the typical signs of age and physical activity on the spine.
This disc degeneration resource section will provide a comprehensive overview of the condition and will also provide many other topical research articles for additional study.
DDD is described as a condition in which the spinal discs dry out, lose height, as well as diameter, and generally shrink. These are also recognized patterns of normal disc aging. DDD is characterized as causing the overall length of the spine to shorten, which also happens to be a normal part of getting older.
DDD facilitates possible increased interaction between the spinal bones and might entail the growth of osteophytes on affected vertebrae, as well as encourage the general osteoarthritic processes.
Spinal osteoarthritis is also thought to be a commonplace occurrence in many adult patients and is rarely the source of any significant or ongoing pain. Well, it seems that DDD is basically another name for getting older; only specifically referring to the intervertebral structures of the spine. Disease? No.
Read more to help answer the question what is disc disease?
Disc disease is perhaps the most misunderstood of all normal spinal aging conditions. Therefore, we have written many focused essays detailing the condition from an objective and factual viewpoint:
Disc desiccation describes a drying out of the interior nucleus tissues of an intervertebral spacer.
Lumbar disc disease is universal and mostly seen between levels L4 and S1.
Thoracic disc disease is less common and usually demonstrated at or near the cervicothoracic and thoracolumbar junctures.
Cervical disc disease is also virtually universal and most often worst in the mid to low levels of the neck.
Disc disease causes explain why everyone gets disc degeneration as they age.
Disc disease symptoms rarely exist, but may express themselves in extreme and pathological instances of intervertebral desiccation. Disc disease pain is certainly not a common finding in most patients.
Disc disease diagnosis can be accomplished through even the most rudimentary spinal imaging technologies.
Disc disease treatment is seldom needed, but often rendered, regardless of the innocence of most DDD conditions.
Disc disease exercises are usually prescribed to help support the damaged levels of the spine. This is a ridiculous notion.
Disc disease surgery is the most drastic of all therapy options, typically reserved for the worst cases of intervertebral deterioration. Recovering from degenerated disc surgery is far more complicated than just allowing the wounds to heal. Patients must consider many factors in order to fully recuperate.
Smoking causes disc disease. There is really no other way to say it more directly than this article can accomplish.
A degenerated disc is more likely to suffer a herniation, but is far less likely to cause any pain as a result of that herniation. Most bulges and ruptures in thoroughly degenerated discs go unnoticed and are sometimes never even discovered until much later in life.
A degenerated disc has less nucleus pulposus mass and therefore is under less pressure if and when it herniates.
The disc is also smaller once degenerated, so the bulge has a greater distance to travel before making contact with any sensitive neurological tissues.
Additionally, a degenerated nucleus also involves less irritating proteins; so even in the event of a significant rupture, there is less chance of experiencing chemical radiculitis.
DDD is normal and you are sure to develop it as you age.
DDD is not usually the source of any pain or symptoms
DDD creates physical changes in the spine, but these are normal.
DDD can create some pain in a minority of patients.
DDD is not a disease.
DDD is one of the main causes of the nocebo effect in healthy patients.
Read more about disc disease myths.
I was diagnosed with moderate DDD at age 16. I demonstrated noticeable loss of disc height at L4/L5 and L5/S1 long before those 2 discs eventually herniated.
The very term degenerative disc disease was like a knife in my heart when uttered by my first chiropractor. This diagnosis, presented to me in the blatant and unexplained way in which it was, definitely set the stage for an escalation in my symptoms. I really thought my spine was crumbling from the way my chiropractor broke the news to this naïve teenager. I wish I could have a few words with this guy now. I would tell him a few things, for sure.
Looking back, I agree that my age was a bit young for such a DDD condition to exist. However, it does happen and not as infrequently as you might think. DDD is normal by age 30 in the lower back and possibly in the neck. Many people show the signs earlier and some people maintain moisture-rich discs until far later in life. Genetics, lifestyle and idiopathic reasons all play a part in when, where and how much disc degeneration will occur.
Don’t let any doctor scare you with this diagnosis. Learn the facts about this condition and then explain right back to them how DDD is a normal part of the aging process for every human. You can even go so far as to tell them that they have it too.
The nocebo factor is powerful with this condition. Anyone who has been exposed to the diagnosis should definitely use the simple techniques of knowledge therapy to counteract the doom and gloom factor associated with DDD.
For the few patients who actually do have symptomatic DDD because of unusual and advanced spinal changes, I am sorry… truly and sincerely. I do not mean to belittle your struggle or pain one bit.
I know this article comes on strong, but it must. You simply have to realize that your condition is extremely atypical and that the other 99% of diagnosed patients are suffering for nothing. For you, I send my prayers and for everyone else, I tell you: Learn the facts. Read more about the process of recovering from degenerative disc disease.