Doctor Discussion Guide
Feel prepared—customize your own discussion tool to take to your next appointment.Start Now
As discs lose their water content because of disease or age, they lose their height, bringing the vertebrae closer together. As a result, the nerve openings in your spine become more narrow. When this happens, the discs don’t absorb the shocks as well, particularly when you are walking, running, or jumping.
Wear and tear, poor posture, and incorrect body movements can also weaken the disc, causing disc degeneration.
For some of us, degenerative disc disease is part of the natural process of growing older. As we age, our intervertebral discs can lose their flexibility, elasticity, and shock-absorbing characteristics. For others, degenerative disc disease can stem from an injury to the back.
Degenerative disc disease may cause back and/or leg pain, as well as functional problems such as tingling or numbness in your legs or buttocks, or difficulty walking.
The diagnosis of degenerative disc disease begins with a physical examination of the body, with special attention paid to the back and lower extremities.
Your doctor will examine your back for flexibility, range of motion, and the presence of certain signs that suggest that your nerve roots are being affected by degenerative changes in your back. This often involves testing the strength of your muscles and your reflexes to make sure that they are still working normally.
You will often be asked to fill out a diagram that asks you where your symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness are occurring. X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be ordered.
Treatments can vary depending on the severity of your symptoms and how much they limit your everyday activities. Here are some treatments you may want to discuss with your doctor, depending on your level of pain: