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Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is a weakening of one or more discs in the spine that normally act as a cushion between the vertebrae. The condition is often due to the effects of aging, but can sometimes be the result of injury to the back.

The disease begins with small tears in the wall of the disc. As the tears heal, scar tissue develops which weakens the disc wall. Repeated tears to the disc wall can result in a loss of water content in the nucleus or center of the disc. When this happens, the disc loses its ability to act as a shock absorber for the spine. As the disease progresses, the vertebrae above and below the disc can become misaligned, and bone spurs may grow that put pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots.

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease depend on the location and severity of the diseased area of the spine, and can include pain, numbness or tingling. Bending or twisting may worsen the pain, and lying down may relieve pressure and pain.