Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease

Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease

If you develop health problems, such as osteoarthritis, a herniated disc, or spinal stenosis, you may need other treatments. The treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease include physiotherapy, back strengthening and stretching exercises.

In some cases, surgery may be recommended. Surgery usually involves removing the damaged disc. In some cases, the bone is then permanently joined to protect the spinal cord. In rare cases, an artificial disc can be used to replace the disc that is being removed.

All doctors agree that keeping back pain under control – regardless of the source – requires exercise to increase the strength and flexibility of the muscles that surround and support the spine. Exercise increases back blood flow, which nourishes joints and muscles with oxygen and nutrients, while cleansing destructive inflammatory waste products.


  1. Surgery
  2. Exercises for Degenerative Disc Disease
  3. Stem cell therapy
  4. Other remedies



Patients who do not respond to conservative therapies in about 3 months may consider surgery. This can be an option if there are:

  • back or leg pain that prevents the patient from performing regular activities
  • numbness or weakness in the legs
  • difficulty standing or walking


Depending on the severity of the condition, your doctor may recommend either a replacement of the disc with an artificial one or a fusion of the spine. You may need surgery if the pain does not subside or worsen after 6 months.

Artificial disc replacement involves replacing the affected disc with a new plastic and metal one. Vertebral fusion, on the other hand, binds the affected vertebrae together as a strengthening system.

Stabilization surgery or fusion of the spine involved the fusion of two vertebrae that ensure the stability of the spine. This can be done anywhere in the spine, but is more common in the lower back and neck area. These are the most mobile parts of the spine.

This can relieve extreme pain in patients whose spine can no longer support the weight, but can also accelerate the degeneration of the discs near the fused vertebrae.

Decompression surgery involves various options to remove part of the disc joint that can reduce the pressure on the nerves. A patient who develops osteoarthritis, herniated disc or spinal stenosis may need other types of treatment.


Exercises for Degenerative Disc Disease

Physical therapy and spine-strengthening exercises, such as yoga or Pilates, can help manage degenerative disc disease. Exercises can help strengthen and stabilize the area around the affected discs and increase mobility. Exercises that build the back and stomach muscles include walking, cycling and swimming, as well as basic training programs such as yoga and Pilates.

Exercise can help supplement other treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease by strengthening the muscles surrounding the damaged discs. They can also increase blood flow to help reduce painful swelling, while increasing the level of nutrients and oxygen in the affected area.

Stretching is the first form of exercise that can help in case of Degenerative Disc Disease. Doing so will help you train your back slightly, so it can be helpful to do light stretches before and after. It is also important to lie down before doing any type of workout. Yoga is useful in treating back pain and has additional benefits on flexibility and endurance through regular practice.


Stem cell therapy

This is an approach based on tissue engineering using stem cells. The goal is to encourage functional cartilage to be generated using an injectable hydrogel system. The researchers concluded that stem cell therapy may be useful for regenerating the intervertebral disc. But many more studies are needed to prove that this treatment is safe and effective.


Other remedies

Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease used in conjunction with physical activity and exercise to increase back endurance include:

  • physiotherapy
  • drugs: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, naproxen sodium), sedatives (acetaminophen)
  • heat therapy
  • mobilization of the spine

Degenerative Disc Disease: causes, symptoms, treatment

Degenerative disc disease is a combination of symptoms associated with aging that may worsen with age. Degeneration of the vertebral discs is not necessarily followed by physical manifestations, such as low back pain radiating to the legs, neck pain (neck pain), muscle weakness or numbness of the limbs.

The intervertebral discs connect the vertebrae of which the spine is composed and are composed of a fibrous and resistant outer ring and an elastic gelatinous tissue located in their center. These discs act as a “shock absorber”, giving the spine protection from shocks caused by large or sudden movements, such as jumping, lifting weights or running.


  1. Causes
  2. Symptoms
  3. Treatment

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease

Aging is the main factor that causes degeneration of the intervertebral disc. Thus, in the elderly patient there are two phenomena that contribute to the deterioration of the quality of the intervertebral disc:

Loss of water content of tissues, which leads to thinning and loss of elasticity of the disc, with increased compression by the vertebrae
Formation of microruptures in the fibrous ring (external portion of the intervertebral disc), caused by all the demanding movements performed during life / minor injuries accumulated over time.

However, the degenerative process of the disc can be accelerated by many factors, including:

  • Injuries – can lead to rupture of the intervertebral disc (fibrous ring) and herniated disc
  • Nutritional factors – obesity promotes degeneration of the intervertebral disc
  • Mechanical factors – intense physical activity, incorrect exercise or demanding physical work (eg weightlifting) accelerates the degradation of the disc, by exerting additional pressure on it
  • Genetic factors – alteration of the expression of certain genes (responsible for the synthesis of structural components, degradation enzymes or the expression of some receptors) can play a decisive role in the degeneration of the intervertebral disc. (1, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease symptoms

Degenerative disc disease may be asymptomatic in some patients, while in others there is severe pain that can affect their quality of life. Usually, the symptoms worsen with age, when complications occur, such as osteoarthritis, which is manifested by back pain and stiffness.

The most common and early symptom of degenerative disc disease is back pain radiating to the thighs and legs. Other events include:

  • tingling or numbness in the lower limbs
  • neck pain that extends to the shoulders, arms or hands
  • muscle spasms in the lumbar or cervical area
  • pain in a sitting position, when lifting or twisting
  • periods of severe pain, which decreases after a few days or weeks
  • weakness in the hands or feet (especially at the ankles)
  • inability to lift the leg

Pain specific to degenerative disc disease may worsen when sitting, bending over, or when the torso is turned. Usually, walking and lying down in a lying position help to relieve pain.

What exactly happens and how does this condition occur?

  • Discs dry out and shrink – made of about 80% water, as they age they slowly lose water. This loss of flexibility puts more pressure on the ring.
  • Small holes appear in the annular space – sometimes part of the gel material (or nucleus pulposus) comes out through a rupture in the wall and touches the nerves. (Herniated disc)
  • This material has many inflammatory proteins that can inflame the nerves and cause pain. These ruptures also affect the nerves in the fibrous ring and small movements, called micro-movements, which can cause discogenic pain. Over the years, the proteins eventually dry out and the discs become stiffer; In many people, this leads to less pain when they are around the age of 60.
  • Disc space becomes smaller – due to water loss in the discs, the distance between the vertebrae begins to collapse, which is why they are shorter as we age.
  • Abnormal bone growth – without the discs holding the vertebrae apart, they can rub against each other causing abnormal bone growth.
  • The spinal canal narrows – the stress of all the above changes causes the ligaments and joints of the facets to enlarge (hypertrophy), as they try to compensate and spread the load over a larger area. This overgrowth forces the spinal canal to narrow, which can compress the spinal cord and nerves that cause pain (spinal stenosis).

The symptoms of degenerative disc disease vary from person to person. Many people with injuries have no pain, while others may have pain so intense that it interferes with their daily activities.

Today the disease affects people over the age of thirty, although the first signs of degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine often appear in adolescence.

Degenerative Disc Disease symptoms

Treatment of Degenerative Disc Disease

The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and reduce the progression of the disease as much as possible.

In most cases, healthcare providers recommend conservative treatment, which includes:

  • physical therapy – regular exercise that strengthens the muscles of the back, in order to reduce pressure on the spine
  • medication – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (eg aspirin, ibuprofen) help reduce local inflammation and relieve pain. In more severe cases, healthcare providers may prescribe stronger painkillers.
  • epidural infiltrations with corticosteroids (steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

If symptoms persist despite conservative treatment (minimum 3 months after initiation), healthcare professionals may suggest surgery (in 5% of cases).

There is a surgical indication for degenerative disc disease:

  • in patients with severe spinal stenosis
  • if the pain is persistent, refractory to conservative therapy
  • in situations where the symptoms do not subside or improve after a period of 6-12 months from the initiation of non-surgical treatment