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Degenerative Disc Disease

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is 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.

Vertebral Column

What increases my risk for degenerative disc disease?

What are the signs and symptoms of degenerative disc disease?

Your symptoms depend on where you have the degenerative disc. You may have headaches or neck, shoulder, or lower back pain that gets worse with activity.

How is degenerative disc disease diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Tell your provider if you had any back injury or you do heavy physical work regularly. An x-ray, CT scan, or MRI may show signs of disc degeneration. You may be given contrast liquid to help the spinal canal show up better in the pictures. Tell the provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is degenerative disc disease treated?

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to manage degenerative disc disease?

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

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