Degenerative Spinal Disc Diseases

What is degenerative spinal disc disease?

Degenerative spinal disc disease arises from worn-out spinal discs that cushion and protect the vertebrae. Spinal discs act as shock absorbers because they absorb the impact of force from day-to-day actions such as bending, twisting and moving. However, the vertebral bones are exposed when the spinal discs degenerate over time due to age, the force of impact, and repetitive stress. As a result, they rub together forcefully.

Degenerative spinal discs can lead to the following conditions:

  • Scoliosis, whereby the spine curves unnaturally.
  • Slipped/herniated disc occurs when the inside of the spinal disc (the nucleus) pushes out of the annulus, the outer part of the spinal disc.
  • Spinal stenosis occurs when areas around the spine begin to close in. As a result, the condition limits space in the region.
  • Spondylolisthesis develops when the vertebrae shift out of position. They remain irregularly placed.

What are the symptoms?

Intermittent back or neck pain

Pins and needles sensation in the limbs

Pain that advances from the buttocks to the lower back.

Disabling pain prevents the patient from performing basic actions (lifting, bending or sitting).

How do you treat degenerative spinal disc disease?

Non-surgical treatments for degenerative spinal disc disease include:

  • Physical therapy to strengthen the affected muscles.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are prescribed to relieve pain temporarily.
  • Corticosteroid injections are applied to the spinal nerves, vertebral discs or joints to alleviate short-term pain.
  • Radiofrequency neurotomy is a non-invasive procedure that utilises electrical current to cauterise sensory nerves and interfere with pain signals delivered to the brain.

Most of the time, surgery to treat degenerative spinal disc disease is not required. However, surgery is often considered when a patient does not respond well to conservative treatments. Surgeries to treat degenerative spinal disc disease include discectomy (partial removal of the spinal disc), foraminotomy (expansion of the area to free nerve roots), removal of bone spurs (osteophytes) and spinal fusion to strengthen the spine.


1. Can degenerative disc disease cause paralysis?

Degenerative disc disease affects the spinal cord and surrounding nerves, causing weakness in the limbs. A badly damaged ruptured disc can cause paralysis. Disc herniation commonly affects the lumbar and cervical spine. .

2. What should I avoid doing with degenerative disc disease?

Avoid movements with increased axial loading applied to the lower back (leg presses and squats). Sit-ups and yoga also place significant pressure on the back.

3. Does walking help with degenerative disc disease?

Generally, walking is good for the spine and joints. So, walking every day for someone diagnosed with degenerative disc disease is encouraged.