Degenerative disc disease often refers to symptoms of low back pain that can lead to leg numbness and weakness and pain that can radiate down the leg. There is no simple explanation of degenerative disc disease, however, as many patients often wonder what the diagnosis means and how it will affect their daily life. It is important to note that everyone will have some signs of wear and tear on their spinal discs as they age, but not everyone will experience the symptoms commonly associated with the condition. It would surprise many patients to know that degenerative disc disease is not actually a disease at all. Below, we will discuss the nature of degenerative disc disease to help patients better understand the diagnosis.

Anatomy of the Discs

First, in order to better understand the various conditions that can happen as a result of injury, trauma or everyday wear and tear, we need to understand the structure of the spinal discs. The discs lie between the vertebrae and act as shock absorbers. There are two parts to these discs: the annulus fibrosus (the tough outer layer) and the nucleus pulposus (the jelly-like core). If these proteins leak into the outer layer and touch the nerves that exit the spine, it can cause a great deal of pain.

 The Diagnosis is a Misnomer

While this diagnosis of degenerative disc disease can be alarming to many patients, it is not necessarily a threatening condition. “Degenerative” to most people means that it will progressively get worse over time; however, this term is referring more to the process of discs degenerating as you age rather than the progression of the pain itself.

“Disease” may also cause confusion as well, because it denotes an illness. Degenerative disc disease is not an illness but a condition that may or may not cause pain from a damaged disc. Most, if not all, people will have some form of this condition; however, it is when the discs become damaged, bulging, or herniated that worrisome symptoms begin to arise.  

 In most cases, the pain from a degenerative disc condition can be managed with conservative modalities, such as physical therapy and spinal injections. It is only when these modalities fail to provide adequate relief that surgery is considered.


The spine specialists at New Jersey Spinal Medicine and Surgery treat conditions of the cervical and lumbar spine using both non-surgical and surgical modalities.  New Jersey Spinal Medicine and Surgery is led by Dr. Dante Implicito and Dr. John Koerner and has offices in Glen Rock and Maywood, NJ. Both physicians have extensive training and experience in the utilization of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery techniques as well as non-surgical techniques.

While here at New Jersey Spinal Medicine and Surgery, all steps in your treatment will be clearly reviewed with you by our outstanding and expert team.  Our goal is to ensure your return to the healthy and active lifestyle you enjoyed in the quickest and most effective way possible.  Each patient is an individual and must be treated like an individual.  Our doctors emphasize a personalized and individualized treatment plan for all of their patients that aim to ensure that each patient is educated and informed when it comes to their procedure.

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