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Is degenerative disc disease painful?

Degenerative disc disease is sometimes painful. However, contrary to what the name of this relatively common condition might suggest, the term “degenerative” does not mean that the associated pain will keep getting worse. Instead, it refers to changes in the spinal discs that occur gradually over time due to ongoing wear and tear. Many people who have degenerative disc disease are able to effectively manage their symptoms and live quite comfortably with the condition.

What is degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease occurs when the outer layer of one or more spinal discs becomes structurally unsound and develops small cracks or tears. In addition to causing localized pain and inflammation, a damaged disc can potentially irritate or pressure a nearby spinal nerve. A compressed spinal nerve can produce a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Radiating pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensations
  • Muscle weakness in the arms or legs

The exact symptoms can vary depending on the location of the degenerated disc and the extent of the damage. However, the hallmark sign of degenerative disc disease is sharp, chronic pain in the neck or back.

Is degenerative disc disease a normal part of aging?

The spinal discs naturally degenerate over time. The degeneration itself is normal and not necessarily painful. Painless degeneration is simply referred to as “degeneration.” On the other hand, the term degenerative disc disease describes spinal disc degeneration that causes pain and other symptoms that may require treatment.

If you’ve been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and would like to explore surgical treatment options for your pain, contact USA Spine Care, the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery. Our team can provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^

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