Disc degeneration is a natural part of aging, and over time all people will exhibit changes in their discs consistent with some degree of degeneration. However, not all people will develop symptoms. In fact, degenerative disc disease is quite variable in its nature and severity. Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) describes the symptoms of pain and debility that may result from disc degeneration.
DDD generally results in fairly consistent neck and back pain symptoms for most patients. The amount of chronic pain, or baseline pain, is quite variable between patients and can range from just a nagging level of irritation, to severe and disabling pain. There may be severe episodes of back or neck pain that will generally last from a few days to a few months before returning to your baseline level of chronic pain. Patients find that certain activities that involve bending, lifting, and twisting, as well as certain positions-such as prolonged sitting-will usually make the pain worse. Walking, changing position and even running will lessen the pain as will lying in reclining position.
DDD can be caused by the natural aging changes that occur in your spine. With age, discs dry out, lose height and their ability to provide a cushion between the bones of the spine. The thick cartilage of the disc begins to fray and painful tears can occur. Accidents and falls can result in injury to discs that can spur degeneration but, more commonly, simple, accumulated wear and tear over time can lead to discogenic back and/or neck pain.