Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) can produce problems throughout your spinal column. The symptoms you experience depend partly on the location of your damaged disc(s).

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Commonly Affected Spinal Areas

You are most likely to experience significant disc degeneration in two segments of your spine: your cervical spine (i.e., your neck) and your lumbar spine (i.e., your back). Some people also experience problems in the thoracic spine, which forms the anchor point for the rib cage. In some cases, degeneration in these areas leads to localized symptoms. However, since DDD can interfere with the health of your spinal nerves, it may also produce symptoms that extend along the track of an affected nerve.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is pain that lingers over time instead of fading away. Most cases of symptom-producing degenerative disc disease produce chronic back pain. Since DDD usually affects your lower back or neck, your pain is most likely to occur in one of these two areas (especially in your lower back and buttock region).

Many people notice an increase in their pain levels when they do such things as sit for extended time periods, twist their backs or necks from side to side, perform lifting motions or bend their backs or necks forward or backward. Conversely, many people experience a decrease in their pain levels when they do such things as alter their body positions often, walk, lie down or run.

Severe Pain

Episodes of severe pain are also a frequent symptom of degenerative disc disease. Although no one knows for sure, this pain may stem from periodic muscle spasms that get triggered by chronic disc pain. Generally speaking, if you have ongoing, severe pain in your back or neck (rather than isolated episodes of such pain), you probably have some other health problem besides DDD.

Radiating Pain and Nerve Changes

If you have DDD in your neck, your chronic pain may radiate downward through your shoulders and travel as far as your forearms or hands. If your disc problem is located in your lower back, your chronic pain may radiate downward through your buttocks to your thighs, lower legs or feet. In addition to pain, degenerative disc disease symptoms may also include other changes in your normal nerve function. Fairly common examples of these problems include tingling in your arms or legs, numbness in your arms or legs, an unusual loss of muscle strength in your leg(s) and a condition called foot drop, which leaves you unable to properly lift your foot with the muscles that control your ankle joint.

Emergency Symptoms

Some problems associated with degenerative disc disease require rapid medical treatment if you’re going to avoid lasting consequences. Examples of these emergency symptoms include pain that impairs your ability to move or function, pain that grows increasingly worse over time, nerve changes in your legs (i.e., tingling, numbness or weakness) and impairment of your normal ability to control your bladder or bowels.

Do You Have Degenerative Disc Disease?

If you have any of the symptoms above, the good news is that you are not alone. DDD is a common condition, and many medical professionals are well trained in ways to help treat the pain.

North American Spine’s family of minimally invasive outpatient procedures have helped thousands of patients find relief from chronic back and neck pain.

How is DDD Treated?

DDD treatment depends on you – your specific physiology and how advanced your case is. The North American Spine medical team and your physician will thoroughly evaluate your situation and recommend a treatment plan to provide both maximum relief and minimum recovery time. Treatment plants are grouped into three categories:


Fusion or Stabilization