How Bad is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Spinal Disc Pain: Not Always as Bad as You Think! Part 2


What causes Back Pain?

In part 1 of this blog we talked about how one major type of back pain is called discogenic pain, or pain that comes from our spinal discs. We also mentioned the two major divisions of discogenic back pain: degenerative disc disease and herniation. Last week we covered herniated discs, how bad the condition really is, and how it can be prevented. This week we will be covering degenerative disc disease. (DDD for short!)


What is a Spinal Disc?

Your spinal discs (aka intervertebral discs) are cushions that lie between the vertebra, or bones of your spine. They are built like a jelly doughnut. They have a thick, gel-like substance in the center called the nucleus pulposus surrounded by strong layers of special tissue called collagen fibers. Because of the way they are built, they do a lot for our spine: they absorb shock, allow for flexibility, and of course, hold our spines together.


Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD): How bad is it, really?

Being told you have Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) can be scary, but it is a little misleading. You see, DDD isn’t quite a disease in the same way Lyme Disease or Multiple Sclerosis are considered diseases. Degeneration in your joints and discs is normal. Just as your skin gets wrinkly or hair turns gray with age, joints and spinal discs age, too. Degeneration can’t be stopped or reversed, but it can be sped up or slowed down.

Degeneration becomes a ‘disease’ when this process occurs faster than normal. There are a few reasons this may happen. One of these is that your spinal discs have a poor blood supply and depend on motion to get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. If that motion becomes limited, those discs will degenerate faster. Degeneration is not bad, although having more degeneration than normally isn’t good for you. Yes, it can cause pain, but it can be treated, too.


How do you treat DDD?

The way to ‘treat’ DDD is doing anything you can to slow the process down and staying away from things that speed it up. Here are a few things you can do to accomplish this:

  1. Be Active: Since your spine needs motion to be healthy, get out there and move it! This doesn’t have to be anything big like running a marathon. Go for a hike, play with your kids, even cleaning around the house requires you to get up and move!
  2. Nutrition: all the motion in the world won’t do your discs any good if they don’t have nutrients to begin with. Again, this doesn’t have to be hard. Pick an apple over a candy bar, choose eating in rather than eating out, drink water instead of soda.
  3. Stop Smoking: This will only apply to some, but for those it does, you should know that there is a strong association between smoking and DDD. In fact, smoking can make pain from DDD worse.


Disc problems aren’t always bad, and you can feel better!

Have you ever been told you have a degenerative disc disease? If so, have confidence that it’s probably not as bad as you think, and you can feel better! Better Chiropractic can help you feel, live, and perform better. Call us today, and we’ll create a plan to get you out of pain and back to enjoying life the way you want.



MRI Changes in Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease. EJOST. 2016.