Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is a condition that causes a weakening of one or more vertebral discs.  There is some confusion around DDD as it is not really a disease, and everyone will experience degeneration in their disc due to aging.  Many people will have no pain at all, and others will have neck and back pain (low back pain is very common) as a result.  The condition can be very painful and turn into a chronic pain condition if left untreated.


The symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease can vary from person to person, but there are some very common symptoms that patients complain about including:

  • Low back pain that radiates to the hips or other areas
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs
  • Low back pain that gets worse when sitting
  • Pain in the buttocks or thighs while walking or standing
  • Pain in low back or neck when bending, twisting or lifting

These symptoms alone are not enough to assume you have DDD. If you have some of the above symptoms, visit an orthopedic physician or schedule an MRI. Once the physician has the MRI results, she will be able to visually see if you have degeneration in your disc, and will know if the symptoms are consistent with degeneration and the pain you are experiencing.

Treating Degenerative Disc Disease

There are many non-surgical options to treat DDD including: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy and spinal injections.  Your orthopedic physician will usually start you with a pain management plan that progresses based on your response to the treatment. For instance, if you take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and rest and ice your affected area to a positive result; the physician may not recommend any other treatment.

However, if the anti-inflammatory medication does not work for you, she may recommend you progress to physical therapy treatment.  In physical therapy, the therapist will use functional exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility and range of motion.

If the physical therapy does not work for you, the physician may recommend pain injections or surgery, if the chronic pain has continued to progress over a period of time (like 3 to 6 months).  There are many different types of surgery available for DDD patients, but the most common is a fusion surgery which is effective at reducing or eliminating pain. Of course, the type of treatment, conservative or surgical will need to be discussed with your physician.

Schedule an Appointment

Getting treatment or surgery on your back is a big undertaking and it’s best if you work with some of the best back and spine specialists in the Chicagoland area.  If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms contact us immediately or find a location near you and schedule an appointment.