Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)

Orthopedic and Neurosurgical Spine: Degenerative Disc Disease

dallas medical hospital

Orthopedic & Neurosurgical Spine


Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD), otherwise known as Spondylosis, is a condition that is common to adults. As the term implies, ‘degenerative disc disease’—it is the progressive deterioration of the discs between the bones of the vertebral column.

Causes of DDD

The wear and tear theory suggest that aging facilitates the accumulation of injury and damage. As people age, the spine degenerates. Like the parts of an old car, it wears out from repeated use. This means that the shock-absorbing cushions, known as the intervertebral discs, loses its fluid causing decreased flexibility, thinning, bulging, and lesser cushioning ability.

Repetitive stress on the vertebra can also weaken the structures of the spine causing DDD. Other factors that may lead to disc degeneration include obesity, trauma, smoking, and family history.

Signs and Symptoms of DDD

This condition can occur anywhere along the spinal column, with most cases occurring at the neck/cervical region (degenerative disc disease of the neck) and at the lumbar area (lower back).

  • Pain – The most common complaints of patients with degenerative disc disease is lower back pain, which, may or may not radiate to the legs or upper part of the thighs.
  • Stiffness Some people who experience pain from Spondylosis describe morning pain as lower back stiffness or rigidity.
  • Numbness/ weakness – In some individuals, the vertebra loses flexibility. Others experience bone spurs or disc bulging that can compress a nerve root, which can cause chronic pain, numbness, and weakness in certain body parts.
160809 Pine Creek 302 - Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)


DDD is usually suspected if there are one or more of the signs and symptoms listed above. Various tests, and examinations, can also be used to rule out other disease conditions and confirm the diagnosis:

  • Physical examination
  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • Bone scan
  • Discogram/Discography
  • Myelogram

Management of DDD

  • Warm and Cold Compress

To lessen the pain of DDD or spondylosis, alternative hot and cold compresses can be used on the affected area. The warm compress improves circulation of blood and relaxes the muscles that became stiff. Cold compress, on the other hand, helps in reducing inflammation (tissue swelling). The use of these compresses, however, shouldn’t last long in areas that gets easily irritated or if other health conditions, such as diabetes and other circulatory problems exist.

  • Exercise

Regular exercise is the key to keep the joints in good shape. It aids in the prevention of further damage and complication. Nevertheless, exercise should be done with doctor’s order/recommendation and caution because it should be used only to an extent that is comfortable and pain-free.

  • Relaxation

Relaxation exercises are beneficial. Visualization, deep breathing, music therapy, and other relaxation techniques can help for better pain management.

  • Epsom Salts

It is believed that the Magnesium present in Epsom salt pack works wonders in healing.  It helps in balancing the pH levels in the body. When pH levels are balanced, the muscle rigidity and stiffness can be minimized.

Treatment Options

Signs and symptoms of degenerative disc disease usually resolve on its own. However, some people’s condition worsens over time. If Degenerative Disc Disease is established as a diagnosis, one or more of the following treatment may be recommended:

  • Rest
  • Physical therapy
  • Restriction of activity
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Medications
    • Anti-inflammatory – to reduce inflammation
    • Analgesics – to reduce pain
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Chiropractic
  • Meditation/Biofeedback
  • Surgery
  • Decompression surgery
  • Laminectomy
  • Spinal fusion surgery