Back pain is a common issue that affects many adults, and if you are experiencing it, there is a high likelihood that you have degenerative disc disease. The discs in your spine act as shock absorbers, situated between the vertebrae to maintain spinal flexibility and health.

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that arises when one or more of these discs weaken and gradually deteriorate, causing damage to the cushioning. As time goes by, the discs may bulge and even rupture, leading to potential pain and compression of nerves. This condition is typically caused by overuse or natural ageing of the spine or by a sudden injury. 

Research has shown that while it may not be possible to cure the condition of failing discs, it is possible to choose appropriate treatment options that can alleviate pain and slow down the progression of the disease. 

Exploring the various available treatments for effective pain management is important to determine the most suitable treatment. Keep reading to discover more about these treatment options.

Symptoms and Signs of Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc diseases affect the middle part of the disc. The water content stored in the disc will begin to diminish, contributing to various symptoms. Some of them are,

  • Severe pain in the lower back, neck, or thighs.
  • Dull and nagging ache when sitting that will get worse over time
  • Extreme numbness or tingling sensation
  • Pain when bending, lifting or twisting the body due the weakened discs. 

Diagnosis of Degenerative Disc Disease

Most people tend to be affected by degeneration between 50 and 60. In addition, individuals who engage in aggressive sports or have met with an acute trauma injury on their back are also prone to developing degenerative disc disease. Here are some of the Diagnostic tests used to confirm the presence of the degeneration.

  • Physical Examination: Your clinician will analyse your medication history and the current symptoms. Then they will perform a thorough physical examination to inspect our muscles, nerves, pain and range of motion to understand the root cause of degeneration. 
  • Imaging Tests: You may also need to undergo certain imaging tests mentioned below to have a clear look at your spine and to check whether your spine joints have developed bone spurs. 
  • X-rays: X-rays provide a detailed image of the bone structure of your spine.
  • MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging): MRI offers a clear image of discs, allowing doctors to view how the condition affects the spinal cavity and nerves. 
  • CT (Computed tomography) Scan: This imaging procedure will give a comprehensive result of spinal bones, aiding the physicians to know the condition’s underlying cause, especially when there is degeneration in multiple discs. 

Conservative Treatment Options 

When people are diagnosed with degenerative disc diseases, they tend to look for immediate repair or unnecessary surgical procedures. Below we have listed the conservative degenerative disc disease treatment options to achieve desired outcomes.

  • Rest and Activity Modification

In the initial stage, your physician might suggest you rest from strenuous activities like lifting heavy objects or engaging in sports. Modifying activities will help you manage effective pain and reduce inflammation and other symptoms associated with disc deterioration. During the rest period, drinking plenty of water and consuming a healthy diet will delay the progression of the disease.

  • Physiotherapy

Skilled physical therapies will guide you on simple stretches and strengthening exercises after evaluating your muscular strength, pain level, and health status. Then they will create a tailor-made treatment plan to improve your balance, flexibility and range of motion while alleviating the related symptoms.  

In some cases, patients will be recommended to use other interventions like bracing, massage, assistive devices and modalities.

  • Medications

Various medications are available to help you address and alleviate the symptoms of degenerative disc diseases. Your healthcare professional will prescribe the proper medication, when, and how often to consume them. Some common medications are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, Acetaminophen like Tylenol, Antidepressant drugs and muscle relaxants.

Interventional Treatment Options

  • Injections

Disc degeneration tends to develop in active discs in the lower back and neck regions. Therefore, therapeutic injection as a primary treatment option will aid in easing pain. There are several types of injections, such as

  • Epidural steroid injections

In epidural steroid injections, a steroid will be released into the epidural space along the spine where the patient feels pain. The steroid medication will decrease the inflammation and irritation in your nerves. 

  • Nerve blocks

If you feel pain in any specific nerve, the physician might suggest you go for a nerve block. The nerve blocks are injected directly into the affected nerve.

  • Trigger point injections

The healthcare professional will administer the trigger-point injection in the injured area to release the muscle knots and relieve the spasm, giving you more pain relief.

  • Surgery

In rare cases, the above conservative treatment plans for disc degeneration may fail to improve the patient’s symptoms. Then, the physician might suggest one or a combination of surgical treatments to reduce the pain caused by the condition.

  • Discectomy – Removal of parts of the disc that causes strain on the nerves.
  • Laminectomy – Removal of the back part of the spine’s vertebra to ease the nerve’s pressure.
  • Laminotomy – Removal of the lamina of the vertebra
  • Spinal fusion – Fusion of two or more vertebrae using bone grafting. 
  • Artificial disc surgery – Replacement of herniated disc with a prosthetic one. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing Treatment Options

  • Severity and Stage of DDD

The disc degeneration treatment plan focuses on revamping daily life through enhanced therapeutic approaches. If the condition is in an early stage, it can be treated with non-invasive treatment options like physiotherapy, rest and medications. On the other hand, if the condition is severe, the physician will suggest surgical procedures. 

  • Patient’s Overall Health Condition

The patient’s overall health status should support the treatment of the degenerative disc condition. Certain diseases might hinder the treatment’s effect or improve the disease’s symptoms.

  • Patient’s Lifestyle and Preferences

An individual’s lifestyle and preferences also affect their decision in choosing the treatment. For instance, a person can choose occupational or physical therapy based on their lifestyle. On the other hand, certain NSAIDs might pose adverse effects on the patient.


Regarding your lower back pain, numerous factors such as nutrition, general health status and strength can influence the symptoms. These factors tend to impact the overall health and structure of your spine and discs, indicating the onset of Degenerative disc disease

However, it doesn’t mean you must lead your life with unrelenting pain. Opting for early and effective disc degeneration treatment that focuses on relieving symptoms and maintaining a healthy lifestyle approach will aid you in improving the quality of your life.

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