Degenerative disc disease is not really a disease but a term used to describe the normal changes in your spinal discs as you age. Spinal discs are soft, compressible discs that separate the interlocking bones (vertebrae) that make up the spine. The discs act as shock absorbers for the spine, allowing it to flex, bend, and twist. Degenerative disc disease can take place throughout the spine, but it most often occurs in the discs in the lower back (lumbar region) and the neck (cervical region).
The changes in the discs can result in back or neck pain and/or:
- Osteoarthritis, the breakdown of the tissue (cartilage) that protects and cushions joints.
- Herniated disc, an abnormal bulge or breaking open of a spinal disc.
- Spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal, the open space in the spine that holds the spinal cord .
These conditions may put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, leading to pain and possibly affecting nerve function.