Degenerative disc disorder occurs due to the wear and tear of spinal discs. It is an age-related condition affecting one or more intervertebral discs and causing pain. Continuous or low-grade pain that occasionally flares up is the most common symptom of the degenerative disc. This disorder can cause:

  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Shooting pain (radicular pain in neck and arms)
  • Typically, low-level chronic pain

Intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers and cushions located in between the vertebrae. These discs help in various activities involving the spine like standing, moving, bending, and other daily life activities.

What are the 4 stages of degenerative disc disease?

Stage 1:

This stage can go unnoticed by the patient. The abnormal curvature of the spine can be a sign of the beginning of disc degeneration.

Stage 2:

Disc degradation is more apparent at this stage along with that; unnatural curvature of the spine, narrowing of the spinal canal, pain, and discomfort.

Stage 3:

The change in the curvature of the spine and the posture is more extreme along with loss of mobility, and pain. At this stage, the scar tissue starts forming.

Stage 4:

This stage is considered irreversible and more severe. The discs are the thinnest at the point, with limited flexibility of the spine, and the spine bones may start to fuse together.

Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms:

The most common symptoms of degenerative disc disease (DDD) include the following:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain radiating down the arms from the neck or legs from the buttock
  • Pain worsening due to; sitting, bending, or twisting
  • Tingling and numbness in the arms and legs
  • Weakens the muscles
  • Gets worse while performing day to day activities like movement or walk
  • Changing position or lying down might help

However, the pain may lessen due to exercise and walks.

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease:

One of the major causes of degenerative disc disease is the wear and tear of the intervertebral discs. There are several factors that can impact or lead to degenerative disc disorder. They include:

–  Age:

Degeneration of the spine begins between the age of 20 to 25 years. 30% of people by the age of 35, may display evidence of disc degeneration. However, about 90% of people above the age of 60 show evidence of disc degeneration.

–  Injuries:

The risk of DDD can increase due to swelling and soreness of the back injury from a car accident.

–  Spinal diseases:

Ankylosing spondylitis, like spine conditions, can increase the risk of degenerative disk disease (DDD).

–  Overweight:

Excess weight put extra pressure on the spine which eventually compresses the intervertebral discs.

Disc degeneration is common among people after the age of 40 however, pain is not a common symptom. The intervertebral disc goes through some changes over time, eventually, causing degenerative disc disorder.

                                                             i.      Drying out of the disc:

The intervertebral discs of the spine contain mostly water. These discs act as shock absorbers. However, with age, the discs begin to lose this water content, become thinner and flatter, and therefore, can’t bear/absorb the shock. Lower water content in the intervertebral discs means lesser cushion between the vertebrae. This thinning of the discs can lead to several other spine-related disorders causing pain.

                                                          ii.      Crack due to minor injuries:

Over the span of years, the outer wall can result in tears due to minor injuries or everyday stress. This outer wall contains nerves, and tears near them can lead to pain. In case of the breakdown of this wall, the intervertebral disc’s softcore may slip or bulge out affecting the nerves. This condition is known as a slipped disc or herniated disc.

Things to avoid with degenerative disc disease:

There are certain foods that can be referred to as “agents of inflammation”. Foods to be avoided with disc degeneration include:

  • Processed sugar
  • Fried foods
  • Saturated fats
  • Processed meat
  • Vegetable oil

Risk factors for Degenerative Disc Disorder:

The biggest risk factor for degenerative disc disorder is age. Other factors also impact the process of degenerative disc disease, they include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Sudden or acute injury e.g., fall or car accidents
  • Sedentary lifestyle


Degenerative disc disease exercises can help promote the nutrition of the disc as well as strengthen the spine. There are several reasons behind back pain including ankylosing spondylitis, disc disorders, and sciatica. Back pain is one of the most common reasons behind physician visits, disability, and absence from work. Degenerative disc disease (DDD) increases the risk of developing lower back pain as people get older.