Over time, the spinal discs degenerate, shrink, and lose their integrity, causing neck pain, back pain, and other complications. These age-related changes are known collectively as degenerative disc disease.

WHAT ARE SPINE DISCS?

Spine discs are soft structures that separate the bones (vertebrae) of your spine. They act as shock absorbers so that the spine can bend and twist with ease. As they break down with age, many patients complain of pain, reduced range of motion, and other issues.

SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of degenerative disc disease vary depending on the location of the affected spinal discs and the extent of your condition.

Common signs include:

  • Persistent lower back or neck pain
  • Pain that worsens with movement or activity
  • Numbness or tingling in a leg or arm
  • Pain that extends to the buttocks and thighs

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WHAT CAUSES DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE?

Fluid Loss: Your spinal discs naturally lose fluid with age, which reduces flexibility and shock absorption. It also makes the discs thinner, resulting in less distance between the vertebrae.

Tears or Cracks: Over time, it’s possible for tears or cracks to develop on the outside layer of the spinal discs. When this occurs, the material inside can get pushed out, resulting in a bulging disc.

Injury: A sudden injury that results in a herniated disc often starts the process of disc degeneration.

THE DIAGNOSIS: WHAT TO EXPECT

Our physicians can typically make a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease with a physical examination.
During your appointment, we will:

  • Collect your medical history
  • Check your range of motion and assess actions that trigger the pain
  • Look for nerve-related changes in the area
  • Discuss activities that cause your pain
  • Check for fractures, tumors and other conditions
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