Degenerative disc disease (DDD)

Our world-leading spinal specialists treat the pain caused by a worn spinal disc.

Spinal and peripheral nerve

What is degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is caused by wear-and-tear on a spinal disc in the lower back and neck. The condition usually causes low-level chronic back pain, with episodes of weakness, numbness, and shooting pains in the arms or legs.

Need to know

DDD happens when the discs between our vertebrae age over time, losing their flexibility, elasticity and ability to absorb shocks. It can affect any part of the spine but often starts in the areas of the spine we use the most — the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine). DDD can be associated with a dull, continuous pain in the back, or even episodic severe pain lasting a few days to a few weeks.

Other symptoms include:

  • Increased pain when you move
  • Feeling as though your spine isn't supporting you
  • Sharp pain in the shoulder, arm or hand or the hips, buttocks or leg
  • Pain when standing too long - muscle spasms.

There are a number of ways to diagnose degenerative disc disease.


  • Physical and subjective examination: your doctor will examine your spine in the first instance and discuss the types of pain you’ve been having.
  • MRI scan: this displays the soft tissues in your spine and can highlight a bulging or worn disc. It can confirm a formal diagnosis of degenerative disc disease in the neck or lower back and help when planning corrective surgery.

There are a number of ways to diagnose degenerative disc disease.


  • Physical and subjective examination: your doctor will examine your spine in the first instance and discuss the types of pain you’ve been having.
  • MRI scan: this displays the soft tissues in your spine and can highlight a bulging or worn disc. It can confirm a formal diagnosis of degenerative disc disease in the neck or lower back and help when planning corrective surgery

Our Degenerative disc disease (DDD) locations

Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH)

Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH)

170 Tottenham Court Road W1T 7HA London
The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Portland Hospital

The Portland Hospital

205-209 Great Portland Street W1W 5AH London
The Princess Grace Hospital

The Princess Grace Hospital

42-52 Nottingham Place W1U 5NY London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
The Shard Outpatients

The Shard Outpatients

The Shard, 32 St Thomas Street SE1 9BS London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.