Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms and Causes

Degenerative disc disease symptoms can vary from person to person, but one of the most common symptoms is pain in the back or neck. Symptoms of degenerative disc disease do not always present in every case. While someone with a degenerative disc may feel severe pain that limits their day-to-day activities, another person with the same degree of degeneration may experience only mild discomfort. Like most orthopedic conditions, early diagnosis is the key to obtaining the most successful treatment.

Along with localized pain, degenerative disc disease symptoms such as radiating pain or numbness may be felt in the extremities. As nerves and other structures surrounding the damaged disc are compressed, pain radiates along the nerve paths to the body's extremities.

If you suffer from a degenerative disc in your lower back, pain will likely get worse while sitting because the lumbar spine is under more pressure in a seated position. Symptoms may occur in the buttocks, legs, and feet. If you suffer from a degenerative disc in your neck, the cervical nerve compression may cause you to experience pain and numbness in the shoulders, arms, and hands.

Symptoms of Cervical Disc Degeneration

  • Neck stiffness causing mild pain and discomfort.
  • Neck Pain that may radiate through to the shoulders and down the arms.
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the neck, shoulder, and arm indicating that a nerve is likely being pinched.

Symptoms of Lumbar Disc Degeneration

  • Mild pain in the lower back that may radiate through the hips and into the legs.
  • Moderate to intense pain when the spine is under load such as carrying heavy objects or while seated.
  • Pain that increases in intensity while performing certain movements such as bending, lifting, twisting, sneezing, or even coughing.

The Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease

The main cause of degenerative disc disease is related to age. As we grow older, our spine undergoes changes that affect its ability to manage the everyday stress we place on it. Throughout your life, the vertebral discs in your spine lose fluid, drying them out and making it easier for the tough outer layer of the disc to crack. These cracks leave the disc more prone to becoming herniated. Repetitive trauma and injury to the vertebral disc may also lead to degenerative disc disease.