Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is a condition where the discs in between each vertebrae
lose their height and hydration. This degeneration makes it challenging for the discs to do their main functions: shock absorption, and allowing the vertebrae to move easily with spinal
movements. DDD can develop at any area of the spine, however, it occurs most commonly in
the neck and low back.
The disc, or intervertebral disc, is made of a fibrous edge called the annulus fibrosis, which
surrounds a jelly-like inside called the nucleus pulposus. DDD can involve changes to the disc
and subchondral bone. In DDD, the nucleus pulposus can leak out the weakened annulus
fibrosis which can irritate the neural tissue. If the disc can no longer absorb force as effectively,
it can cause abnormal movement of the segment, leading to muscle spasms. In some cases,
the vertebrae can compress and impinge the nerves entering and exiting the vertebral column, causing nerve injury.
DDD can cause:
● Low back pain
● Neck pain
● Radiating pain into the legs or feet
● Pain radiating in the arms or hands
● Pain with sitting for long periods of time
● Pain with rotation, bending, or lifting
It is estimated that 30% of people aged 30-50 years have some form of degeneration. Despitethe name, DDD is not a disease and is common in normal aging. The exact cause of DDD is unknown, however, it can be associated with:
● Low back injury (i.e. tears in the outer portion of the disc due to daily activities and
● Traumatic injury
● Lumbar radiculopathy
There is very little blood supply to the disc, and once the disc is injured, it cannot repair itself
and therefore may start to deteriorate. If you are experiencing back pain or suspect you are
affected by DDD, contact us to book with one of our Physiotherapists today!