What is degenerative disc disease? | Dr. Andrew Cash, MD Las Vegas, Nevada

By Brooke Strickland and Andrew Cash, MD

Degenerative disc disease is one of the most frequent causes of lower back pain.  If you’ve been diagnosed with this, you might be wondering what it means for you.  Do you need to limit your activities? Will it get worse with age?  Will it cause permanent damage?  These are all common questions and are good to ask. 

What is it?

Degenerative disc disease is somewhat of a misnomer, as it doesn’t actually refer to a disease – it’s actually a condition that can often cause pain from a disc that has been damaged.  It also sounds pretty serious, which can be scary for a person, but it’s not life-threatening.  It also isn’t strictly degenerative, meaning your discs will likely degenerate with age, but your symptoms may not.  Many times the pain associated with this condition doesn’t always get worse, but often gets better as time goes on. 

What causes it?

There are a variety of causes for this condition.  It can often be related to an injury to the disc or other fractures or infections that may have caused damage to the disc after a period of time. However, the exact cause of the condition is not known in many cases and is attributed mostly to normal aging and “wear and tear” of the discs.

How is it diagnosed?

Degenerative disc disease is generally diagnosed after examining the patient, then reviewing a lumbar x-ray or MRI that shows moderate to severe disc height loss.  Then, the doctor will review pain management options and other treatment options such as physical therapy or steroid injections for the patient to minimize pain and reduce the risk of greater disc damage.  If the patient’s pain does not respond to more conservative treatments, he or she may be recommended for surgery.

If you are experiencing chronic lower back pain, contact Dr. Cash at Desert Institute of Spine Care for an appointment at: http://www.disclv.com

You can also view Dr. Cash's Verified Reviews® at www.medrounds.org/Dr_Andrew_Cash or his personal page at www.andrew-cash-md.com.