Degenerative disc disease — where does it cause symptoms?

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) can cause pain both locally in the neck or back as well as the extremities. The pain can range from a minor ache to debilitating pain that can make even the simplest tasks difficult to impossible. The good news is that treatment that can help you return to everyday activity with less pain is possible and learning more about the causes and types of symptoms is a great step in getting there.

How does degenerative disc disease cause pain?

Degenerative disc disease is a condition named for the natural deterioration of the spinal discs that happens as everyone gets older. These changes can cause the discs to flatten, bulge or herniate, which can narrow the spinal canal or nerve root exits in the spinal column. It is this narrowing that leads to the nerve compression that is the primary source of symptoms like shooting pain, tingling, numbness, cramping and muscle weakness that can be so disruptive to normal life.

The location of these symptoms depends on the level of the spine where the nerve compression has occurred. There are three main spinal regions where degenerative disc disease develops:

  • Cervical. DDD in the cervical (upper) part of the spine can affect the neck, shoulders, arms and hands.
  • Thoracic. Since the vertebrae in this region are fixed to the ribcage, these discs do not experience as much stress as the rest of the body. But if DDD does develop here it can hurt in the chest, middle back and abdomen.
  • Lumbar. The lumbar (lower) spine is a very common source of disc degeneration and nerve compression here can hurt the lower back, buttocks, hips, legs and feet.

How is degenerative disc disease treated?

The first course of treatment for DDD and the related symptoms is usually a combination of conservative treatments that can include physical therapy, recommended lifestyle changes, pain or anti-inflammatory medication and exercise. Surgery can become an option if weeks or months of treatment do not bring the relief necessary to comfortably engage in the activities of daily life.

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, offering less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open spine procedures.^ To learn more, contact our dedicated and caring team today for a no-cost MRI review and find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.