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Degenerative disc disease

Also called: DDD, degeneration of the intervertebral disc

Osteoarthritis of the spine, usually in the neck or lower back.

Very common
More than 3 million US cases per year

Treatment can help, but this condition can't be cured

Requires a medical diagnosis

Lab tests or imaging rarely required

Chronic: can last for years or be lifelong

This is a condition of the discs between vertebrae with loss of cushioning,

fragmentation and herniation related to aging.
There may be no symptoms. In some cases, the spine loses flexibility and
bone spurs may pinch a nerve root, causing pain or weakness.
Treatment can include exercise, medication, and physical therapy.

Ages affected


Requires a medical diagnosis

There may be no symptoms. In some cases, the spine loses flexibility and
bone spurs may pinch a nerve root, causing pain or weakness.

People may experience:

Pain areas: in the legs, thighs, and buttocks that worsens with standing,
lower back, or neck
Sensory: pins and needles or reduced sensation of touch
Also common: muscle spasms, nerve injury, physical deformity, or


Treatment consists of self care

Treatment can include exercise, medication, and physical therapy.

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Physical exercise: Aerobic activity for 20-30 minutes 5 days a week improves
cardiovascular health. If injured, pursuing an activity that avoids the injured muscle
group or joint can help maintain physical function while recovering.
Heating pad: Soothes painful muscles or joints and can help drain skin infections.

Chiropractic treatment techniques: Adjusting the spine and massaging the back
muscles to relieve pain.
Physical therapy: Restores muscle strength and function through exercise.

Nonsteroidal anti-Inflammatory drug: Relieves pain, decreases inflammation,
and reduces fever.
Ibuprofen (Midol, Advil, Motrin, NeoProfen, and Caldolor)
Naproxen (Midol, Aleve, Naprelan, Naprosyn, and Anaprox)

Medical procedure
Epidural steroid injection: Injection of cortisone and a numbing agent into the
spine. Can relieve back, neck, arm, and leg pain.

Discectomy: Surgical removal of a bulging (herniated) disc that presses on a
nerve or the spinal cord.
Laminectomy: Surgical removal of the back part of the vertebra to relieve
pressure on the spine or nerve.
Laminotomy: Surgical removal of the bony arch of a vertebra to relieve pressure
on the spine or nerve.
Intervertebral disc annuloplasty: Surgery to repair the outside of a bulging disc
in the spine before it ruptures.
Intervertebral disc arthroplasty: Surgical replacement of damaged discs in the
spine with artificial ones.
Laminoplasty: Surgery to relieve pressure (stenosis) on the spinal cord in the
Facetectomy: Open back surgery to remove a damaged vertebral joint and relieve
pressure on the spinal nerves.
Annuloplasty: Surgical reconstruction of the ring (annulus) of a heart valve.
Foraminotomy: Back surgery to widen the opening where nerves leave the spine,
relieving pinched nerves.
Spinal surgery: Correcting abnormalities of the spinal cord or its surrounding
bones through surgical methods.
Spinal fusion: Surgery to join together two or more bones in the spine (vertebrae)
so there is no movement between them.

Orthopedic surgeon: Performs surgery for conditions affecting bones and
Pain management: Eases suffering and improves quality of life for those in pain.
Geriatrician: Focuses on the health care of elderly people.
Physical medicine and rehabilitation: Restores function and quality of life to
those with physical disabilities.
Neurologist: Treats nervous system disorders.
Neurosurgeon: Specializes in nervous system disorders.
Primary care provider (PCP): Prevents, diagnoses, and treats diseases.

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Emergency medicine doctor: Treats patients in the emergency department.

Consult a doctor for medical advice

Note: The information you see describes what usually happens with a medical condition, but
doesn't apply to everyone. This information isn't medical advice, so make sure to contact a
healthcare provider if you have a medical problem. If you think you may have a medical
emergency, call your doctor or a emergency number immediately.
Sources: Mayo Clinic and others. Learn more

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