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Degenerative disc disease (DDD)

Worn spinal disc

Our world-leading spinal units treat the pain caused by 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 pain, with episodes of weakness, numbness, and shooting pains in the arms or legs. Surgery to replace the worn discs is often recommended.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of degenerative disc disease icon plus

    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). The main symptom of DDD is a dull, continuous pain surrounding the worn disc, and episodes of 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
  • Screening and diagnosis icon plus

    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. - Discography: dye is injected into the discs and your back is X-rayed. The dye will remain within a healthy disc, but if the disc is torn, the dye will leak out or into any tears.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    It's possible to treat degenerative disc disease with physical therapy, steroid injections, or anti-inflammatory medication. If the condition is affecting a person's quality of life, surgery may be recommended. These include: - Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion: a small incision is made in the neck and the worn disc is replaced with bone which fuses with the other vertebrae. - Foraminotomy: increase the size of the nerve pathway, releasing trapped nerves. - Spinal fusion surgery: two vertebrae are fused together in order to inhibit movement. This relieves pressure on the spine when a disc wears out. - Discectomy: the worn disc is removed
Consultant in theatres

Our consultants

We're proud to work with leading experts across a range of medical fields, whose skills are matched by their integrity and compassion.

Our facilities

From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Request an appointment

We're happy to help you make an appointment with one of our experienced consultants.

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