The Link Between Aging and Degenerative Disc Disease

Wanda Rice

The spine comprises 33 bones stacked on top of each other and separated by a material called the spongy disc. Nearly everyone’s spine will develop wear and tear due to aging. For some individuals, these damaged discs may cause a painful condition called degenerative disc disease. Specialists at Performance Pain and Sports Medicine offer Raritan anti-aging & regenerative medicine to help relieve degenerative disc disease symptoms.

Degenerative disc disease is a broad term used to describe several conditions in the maturing spine. As we age, our discs, which are the parts between two individual vertebrae, start to change their protein content to less water in them, they become less spongy and therefore do not absorb the bounce as much and people can feel discomfort from that alone.

Sometimes, as the disk loses its water content, it will bulge backward and touch a nerve. A patient will then have pain that extends down the legs. If this scenario happens at the L1-S1 segment, this condition is known as sciatica and most people have had a family member or friend who has had that.


Degenerative disc disease is commonly diagnosed using several imaging tests such as X-rays and MRIs. After reviewing your medical history and lifestyle, your doctor will use these imaging tests to assess your spine’s state comprehensively. Assessing your condition will help your doctor to develop a treatment plan that is effective and specific to you.

Common Symptoms of the Disease

Degenerative disc disease patients complain of pain including:

  • Pain in the lower back, buttocks, thighs or neck
  • Pain that worsens after sitting, bending, lifting, or twisting
  • Numbness and tingling in the extremities
  • Pain that is eased by changes in positions, walking, or running

See a doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

How Degenerative Disc Disease is Treated

The degenerative disease itself is not a disease per say but more of a description of what is happening at the spine as it loses that water content. Treatments of conditions associated with degenerative disc disease range from lifestyle changes, physical therapy, and exercise to main medications and surgery, but are very specific to what that disc is doing to a patient.

If you are having a lot of pain, for example, in or from the back, then treatment options include physical therapy, strengthening your core muscles, the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and some general activity recommendations that your doctor develops. It is crucial to avoid combinations of heavy lifting and twisting.

If the degenerative disc is pressing in a nerve and you are experiencing pain going down to your legs, perhaps numbness or even weakness, then you might want to treat that by strengthening your muscles and addressing the pathology at the nerve level. Steroid injections, perhaps a little bit of therapy, can help take the pressure off the nerves reducing pain.

For more information about treating degenerative disc disease, contact Performance Pain and Sports Medicine or schedule an appointment online.

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