Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of low back pain and neck pain, and also one of the most misunderstood. Simply put, degenerative disc disease describes the symptoms of pain and possibly radiating weakness or numbness stemming from a degenerated disc in the spine.
- Pain that is usually related to activity and will flare up at times but then return to a low-grade pain level, or the pain will go away entirely
- The amount of chronic pain referred to as the patient’s baseline level of pain is variable between individuals and can range from almost no pain/just a nagging level of irritation, to severe and disabling pain
- Severe episodes of back or neck pain that will generally last from a few days to a few months before returning to the individual’s baseline level of chronic pain
- Chronic pain that is completely disabling from degenerative disc disease does happen in some cases, but is relatively rare
- Activities that involve bending, lifting, and twisting will usually make the patient’s pain worse
- Certain positions will usually make the pain worse.
- Walking, and even running, may actually feel better than prolonged sitting or standing
- Patients will generally feel better if they can change positions frequently
- Patients with lumbar DDD will generally feel better lying in a reclining position (such as with legs propped up in a recliner), or lying down with a pillow under the knees, since these positions relieve stress on the lumbar disc space