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What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Also Referred to as Spondylosis


Updated May 23, 2014

Definition: The gradual deterioration of the disc between the vertebrae is referred to as Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD). As people age, the composition of the cartilage of the body changes, resulting in thinner and more fragile cartilage. The changes cause the discs and joints that stack the vertebrae (also known as facet joints) to wear and tear over time. Degeneration of the disc in Degenerative Disc Disease is also referred to as spondylosis.

Spondylosis can be seen on x-rays or an MRI scan of the spine as a narrowing of the normal disc space between adjacent vertebrae. The x-ray or MRI evidence is what confirms the diagnosis of Degenerative Disc Disease.

Any level of the spine can be affected. Degeneration of the disc can cause local pain in the affected area. When Degenerative Disc Disease specifically affects the spine of the neck, it is more specifically referred to as cervical disc disease. When the mid-back is affected, the condition is known as thoracic disc disease. Degenerative Disc Disease affecting the lumbar spine is referred to as lumbar disc disease.

The pain from degenerative disc disease is usually treated with heat, rest, rehabilitative exercises, and medications to relieve pain, muscle spasm, and inflammation. Interestingly, Degenerative Disc Disease is very common. Conservative treatments are tried first and surgical treatment options are considered as a last resort.

Pronunciation: dee-jen-er-uh-tive disk diz-eez

Also Known As: DDD, cervical disc disease, thoracic disc disease, lumbar disc disease

Alternate Spellings: degenerative disk disease

Examples: A new artificial disc has been approved by the FDA which may help people with Degenerative Disc Disease.

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