Understanding Degenerative Disc Disease

disc disease, degenerative, chiropracticIf you’ve been to a clinic for family chiropractic near San Jose, you may have already learned that your spine has intervertebral discs between the vertebrae, or bones. These discs may be involved in conditions such as sciatica, since herniated material from within the discs may compress the sciatic nerve and cause severe sciatic pain. If you have a herniated disc, you may also have degenerative disc disease.


Degenerative disc disease is not actually a disease and it may not necessarily be degenerative. Rather, as your chiropractor can explain to you, it refers to the breakdown of the intervertebral discs. This can naturally happen with age; however, certain contributing factors may worsen the process. Degenerative disc disease may involve small tears in the exterior wall of the disc, which can lead to disc herniation and severe back pain.

Causes and Risk Factors

At birth, a person’s intervertebral discs are comprised of about 80 percent water. With age, the discs begin to dry out, lose their flexibility, and fail to absorb shock as well. Certain people are more likely to develop degenerative disc disease, including those who smoke and those who are obese. Individuals who have physically demanding jobs that require a great deal of lifting are more likely to injure the discs, as are those who play contact sports. The discs do not have a good blood supply of their own, which means their ability to repair damage is impaired.

Signs and Symptoms

Not everyone with degenerative disc disease will experience any symptoms. Some people may only have mild symptoms, while others suffer from excruciating pain. The pain typically begins in the lower back, or lumbar region. Patients may experience sciatic pain down the back of one of the legs, along with muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling. The pain may be worse while sitting, bending, lifting, and twisting.

Treatment Options

Treatment isn’t always necessary for patients with degenerative disc disease. When patients do experience symptoms, they can generally find sufficient relief with conservative, non-invasive treatment options such as chiropractic care and cold laser therapy.