Everything You Need to Know About Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that results from a narrowing of the space between your vertebrae in the spine. This usually happens when the disks between them begin to shrink or become worn down, resulting in pain and nerve damage.

As the disks degenerate, they can press on the nerves that run from your spine to your arms, legs, and other body parts. The narrowed space can cause further compression and damage to these nerves, leading to a pinched nerve or even paralysis.

Depending on which nerve is affected by degenerative disk disease, you may experience numbness or tingling, burning sensations, muscle weakness or tightness, pain in your arms and legs, or difficulty walking.

Carolina Spine & Pain Centers offers various treatments for degenerative disc disease, from physical therapy and medications to injections and minimally invasive procedures.

Common Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disk disease occurs when the disks between the vertebrae in the spinal column become worn and can’t adequately cushion the nerves. This can cause pain and other symptoms in your arms, legs, and lower back.

So, what are the common causes of degenerative disk disease? Generally, it is caused by age-related wear and tear on the disks. As we get older, our spine naturally becomes less flexible, leading to an increased risk of developing this condition. Other causes may include:

  • Injury or trauma to the spine
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Smoking and/or excessive alcohol consumption
  • Poor posture or lifestyle habits
  • Repetitive activities that strain the back, such as lifting heavy objects or playing certain sports

No matter what causes it, degenerative disk disease can lead to chronic pain and discomfort that can last for years if left untreated.

Diagnosing & Treating Degenerative Disc Disease

When it comes to degenerative disk disease, an accurate diagnosis is key. To diagnose DDDN, your doctor will first discuss your symptoms and medical history. Then, you’ll typically undergo a physical examination, imaging tests, and possibly nerve studies to confirm the presence of DDDN.

Physical Examination

During your physical exam, your doctor will carefully assess your spine’s range of motion, evaluating muscle strength and sensation. They may also test your reflexes to determine if they are normal or changed due to the nerve damage associated with DDDN.

Imaging Tests

To better understand the cause and location of the nerve compression associated with DDDN, images of your spine may be taken using an X-ray or MRI scan.

Nerve Studies

Depending on the results of the above tests and examinations, your doctor may recommend electrodiagnostic tests such as electromyography (EMG) or a nerve conduction study (NCV). These tests involve using electrodes attached to your skin to stimulate muscles and measure their electrical activity to identify any issues with the nerves in the involved areas.

Your doctor will use all this information from tests and examinations to develop an appropriate treatment plan for degenerative disk disease.

Symptoms of Degenerative Disk Disease

Are you experiencing odd changes in sensation or muscle function that you’re having a hard time pinning down? You might be dealing with degenerative disk disease and not even know it. Here are some of the symptoms that come with DDD.

Pain or Discomfort

You may feel pain or a burning sensation in the neck or lower back over the areas where nerve roots branch out from the spinal cord. Pain can radiate from areas of the spine and spread to other body parts, like your arms, legs, and chest.

A Chest X-ray of a patient with degenerative disk disease.

Numbness or Tingling

Other symptoms include numbness or tingling in any limbs connected to the affected areas of the spine. You may also feel pins and needles, a prickly sensation, along those same body parts.

Loss of Mobility

The loss of mobility can manifest itself as stiffness when you try to move your arms and legs.

You may find yourself unable to move your fingers efficiently because they are too weak, stiff, or unresponsive to commands from the brain. This might mean feeling like you stumble whenever you walk because your leg won’t respond as quickly as usual.

If you ever experience any of these concerning sensations—even if things turn out to be just a passing weirdness—it’s worth talking about them with a healthcare professional so that they can investigate further!

Long-Term Effects of Degenerative Disk Disease

When it comes to the long-term effects of degenerative disk disease, the risk of permanent nerve damage increases. The most common long-term effect is pain in the affected area. This can vary from mild to severe and last several months or longer.

Other possible long-term effects include:

  • Decreased range of motion or stiffness in joints
  • Weakness in the affected area
  • Loss of sensation or numbness
  • Tingling sensations are often referred to as ‘pins and needles.’
  • Muscle spasms and/or twitching

Degenerative disk disease can sometimes lead to paralysis if the condition is left untreated. If you experience these symptoms, you must contact your healthcare provider immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

In some cases, degenerative disk disease can cause bladder problems and vision issues such as double vision or even blindness.

By receiving prompt treatment, you may be able to help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms and possibly even prevent permanent nerve damage.

Prevention & Management Strategies for Degenerative Disk Disease

The good news is that there are steps you can take to help minimize your risk of developing degenerative disk disease. Through lifestyle modifications, exercise, and treatment options, you can help improve your quality of life.

Lifestyle Modifications

It’s important to remain active with your everyday activities and modify your lifestyle when needed. You should avoid activities that worsen your symptoms, such as heavy lifting and prolonged sitting or standing.

Similarly, you should practice proper posture when sitting or standing to reduce the stress on nerve endings. Additionally, you should maintain a healthy diet and get enough restful sleep so your body can recover from regular daily activities.


Engaging in light exercises like walking, swimming, or stationary bike riding is essential in helping to manage degenerative disk disease. This helps to increase strength and reduce fatigue in the legs and feet. Be careful not to overdo it, though! Make sure the exercise regime is approved by your doctor first.

Treatment Options

If these lifestyle modifications and exercises don’t help relieve the symptoms of degenerative disk disease, treatment options such as physical therapy or steroid injections are available for more extreme cases.

Additionally, some medications work on different levels of pain relief: anti-inflammatory drugs help reduce nerve inflammation, while opioids mask pain signals from reaching the brain by blocking pain receptors along the nerve pathways.

Contact Carolina Spine & Pain Centers for Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment!

When it comes to degenerative disk disease, you may not know where to turn for treatment. But you can trust Carolina Spine & Pain Centers for the most comprehensive and knowledgeable care.

Our team of experts is well-equipped to tackle degenerative disk disease and other spinal conditions, giving you the best care possible. We are committed to helping you get back on track with minimally invasive treatments designed to provide lasting relief from pain without surgery or long-term medications.

Carolina Spine & Pain Centers offers various treatments available for degenerative disk disease, from physical therapy and medications to injections and minimally invasive procedures like radiofrequency ablation.

If you or someone you know is suffering from degenerative disk disease, contact Carolina Spine & Pain Centers today so our team of experts can help you get your life back on track.