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Degenerative Disc Disease


Degenerative disc disease happens when one or more discs between the vertebrae (bones in your spine) wear down. Discs act like a cushion between your vertebrae and help to stabilize your spine. Degenerative disc disease commonly occurs in the neck or lower back as you get older.



You may need the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Go to physical therapy as directed:

A physical therapist will help you find stretches and exercises to decrease pain and improve movement and strength. He may also do spinal decompression to stretch and open the area between your vertebra.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Avoid activities that make your symptoms worse. Ask your healthcare provider for ways to decrease your symptoms. Certain stretches or exercises may relieve your symptoms. Ask how to stay active without further injury.
  • Apply heat or ice as directed. Heat or ice may help decrease pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, weight loss may help improve your symptoms. Ask your healthcare provider to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
  • Find ways to manage your stress. Behavioral therapy may help you learn ways to manage stress and decrease pain. Ask for more information about behavioral therapy.
  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information if you need help quitting.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your pain gets worse, or you cannot control it with pain medicine.
  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have severe pain or weakness, or you cannot move your arm or leg.
  • You lose control of your bladder or bowels.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Degenerative Disc Disease (Aftercare Instructions)

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.