Degenerative discs usually occur in active and healthy people who are in their thirties or forties. As we age the discs in our back can wear down and degenerate, and lead to back pain. Some people with this deterioration may now have any pain and may not even be aware of their condition until they go in for a check up or other health problems occur.
The most pain from degenerative discs usually occurs while sitting because this position puts the most weight on the discs. Conversely, lying down typically relieves the pain since this relieves stress on the disc space. Activities like bending and twisting usually make the pain worse. Many studies have shown that people with degenerated discs tend to feel better while walking or running rather than sitting or standing for long periods of time.
Degenerative discs can occur in any level of the spine and lead to localized pain. Symptoms are different depending on the location of the damaged disc:
- Cervical Degenerated Discs are located in the neck
- Thoracic Degenerated Discs are located in the mid-back
- Lumbar Degenerated Discs are located in the lower back
Cervical Degenerated Disc Symptoms
- Sore and or stiff neck
- The pain can radiate into your shoulders, arms, and hands
- Over time your neck becomes less flexible
- Numbness, tingling, and weakness in your shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers
- Disc degeneration occurs less frequently than in the lower back
Thoracic Degenerative Disc Symptoms
- Muscle spasms
- Pain while twisting the back
- Slumped/bad posture
- Bowel or bladder dysfunction
Degenerated discs are not as common in this area as they are in the neck or lower back because you do not bend or flex as much, so there is less stress on the disc. It can also be caused by genetics, injury, illness, or trauma. This can also lead to spinal stenosis.
Lumbar Degenerative Disc Symptoms
- Pain increases while sitting, twisting, bending, or lifting
- Pain is localized in the lower back
- Pain radiates to your hips all the way down your legs
- Irritation and pain felt in one or both of your legs and buttocks (Sciatica)
- Severe episodes that generally last from a few days to a few months before going back to their normal pain level
Lumbar degenerated discs are most often caused by normal wear and tear but can be caused by an injury in the lower back due to a twisting motion or something similar.