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Are you experiencing back pain, stiffness, or reduced mobility? If so, you may be suffering from degenerative disc disease. This common condition affects millions of people worldwide, and it is one of the leading causes of back pain in adults. Understanding the stages of degenerative disc disease is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment. Let’s take a closer look at what degenerative disc disease is and its stages.

Degenerative Disc Disease: What Is It?

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that affects the spinal discs, which are the soft, spongy cushions between the vertebrae in your spine. Over time, these discs can break down and lose their ability to cushion the spine, leading to pain and reduced mobility. Degenerative disc disease can occur anywhere along the spine but is most commonly found in the lower back (lumbar spine) and the neck (cervical spine).

The Stages of Degenerative Disc Disease

There are four stages of degenerative disc disease, each with its own set of symptoms and treatment options. These stages are:

  • Stage 1: Disc Degeneration
    In this early stage, the spinal discs begin to lose their water content, which makes them less effective at cushioning the spine. This can lead to minor back pain and stiffness, but most people do not experience any significant symptoms at this stage.
  • Stage 2: Prolapse
    At this stage, the spinal discs start to bulge out from their normal position between the vertebrae. This can put pressure on nearby nerves, causing pain, numbness, and tingling in the back, legs, or arms.
  • Stage 3: Herniation
    During this stage, the outer layer of the spinal disc ruptures, and the inner core of the disc (the nucleus pulposus) leaks out. This can cause severe pain, numbness, and weakness in the back, legs, or arms.
  • Stage 4: Fusion
    In the final stage of degenerative disc disease, the vertebrae on either side of the damaged disc may fuse together, forming a solid block of bone. This can reduce mobility and cause chronic pain.

What Causes Degenerative Disk Disease?

Most cases of degenerative disk disease occur with age. The spinal disks have an inner core that dries up as people get older. This leads to flatter spine disks that cannot absorb shocks properly. Dried-up spinal disks mean less padding between the vertebrae.

Aside from drying up of the inner core, spinal disks can get minor injuries over the years that affect the tough outer covering. This can lead to minor tears near nerves, causing crucial back pain. If the outer covering suffers more injury, the softcore may push through and cause slip disk or herniated disk.

What Are the Symptoms of Degenerative Disk Disease?

The most common symptom of degenerative disk disease is back pain. The characteristics of the pain can be:

  • Pain in lower back or upper thighs.
  • Pain is not constant. Can last from a few days to months.
  • Pain is worse upon sitting. Feels better while walking.
  • Pain is worse while bending or lifting objects.
  • Pain gets a bit better when sleeping positions are changed.

In some cases, this disease can lead to numbness in limbs and cause weakness in leg muscles.

How is Degenerative Disk Disease Diagnosed?

To diagnose degenerative disk disease, doctors usually discuss regarding medical history and symptoms. The general queries are:

  • When and where did the pain start?
  • Has the pain spread to limbs?
  • Is there any history of spine injury?
  • Does your family have a history of similar problems?

Besides diagnostic questions about disease history, doctors check the spine for signs of the condition. Moreover, X-ray or MRI imaging to check bone or nerve damage is also suggested by the doctors.

Degenerative Disc Disease and Spinal Cord Injury

Degenerative disc disease can lead to spinal cord injury in some cases, particularly in the later stages of the disease. As the spinal discs degenerate, they become less able to cushion the vertebrae and absorb shocks, increasing the risk of injury to the spinal cord. In addition, as the discs degenerate, they may bulge or herniate, putting pressure on nearby nerves and causing pain or numbness. In severe cases, a herniated disc can compress the spinal cord, leading to spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord injury can cause a range of symptoms, depending on the location and severity of the injury. Common symptoms of SCI include pain, numbness, tingling, and loss of motor function in the affected area. In severe cases, spinal cord injury can lead to paralysis or even death.

While degenerative disc disease does not always lead to spinal cord injury, it is essential to monitor the condition closely and seek medical attention if you experience any new or worsening symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent further damage and improve your quality of life.

If you suspect you may have degenerative disc disease or spinal cord injury, talk to your healthcare provider about the available diagnostic and treatment options. In some cases, surgery or other medical interventions may be necessary to prevent further damage and improve your symptoms.

What are the Treatments for Degenerative Disk Disease?

As conventional treatments for degenerative disk disease do not promise a cure, the goal is apparently to limit the disease progression and ease the pain. Conventional treatments may include:

  • Medication: Pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen can help fight pain and inflammation problems. These medications can also lessen swelling.
  • Steroid shots: These shots have strong medications to ease pain, inflammation, and swelling. Doctors usually suggest these injections in the epidural space around the spinal cord.
  • Physical therapy: Specific training or exercises can enhance muscle movement and function in the neck and back. These exercises should be dealt with very carefully without hurting the existing damaged condition.
  • Surgery: If all other treatments don’t work, doctors may recommend surgery like discectomy to remove the injured part of the disk.


Degenerative disc disease is a common condition that affects many people worldwide. Understanding the stages of degenerative disc disease is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you are experiencing back pain, stiffness, or reduced mobility, talk to your healthcare provider about the possibility of degenerative disc disease and the available treatment options. Remember, early detection and treatment can help prevent the condition from worsening and improve your quality of life.

With advanced technology, stem cell therapy promises a potential cure to the disease in the early stages by repairing the damaged disk tissues and healing the injured areas. Stem cell therapy for degenerative disk disease also reduces pain and inflammation, leading to limiting the progress of the disease. If you are looking for free medical consultation on degenerative disk disease management, contact [email protected] or call +9196543 21400




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