Degenerative Disc Disease - Spine Condition

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is a progressive condition that affects the protective discs within your spine. These discs sit between your vertebrae, absorbing the shocks caused by your movements and keeping your back flexible. 

As you get older or due to damage or disease, your spinal discs begin breaking down and can no longer support your spine. As discs begin shrinking or when tears form in the discs, your vertebrae rub together. This friction can lead to chronic inflammation and pain in your spine, which can also radiate into other parts of your body. 

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease, like pain and numbness, may worsen over time and can ultimately interfere with your range of motion and quality of life.  

Bone Spurs Form

In time, this awkward positioning of the vertebrae may create bone spurs. If these spurs grow into the spinal canal, they may pinch the spinal cord and nerves (a condition called spinal stenosis). The site of the injury may be painful.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

Disc Wall Tears 

Degenerative disc disease typically begins when small tears appear in the disc wall, called the annulus. These tears can cause pain.

Disc Wall Heals

When the tears heal, creating scar tissue that is not as strong as the original disc wall. If the back is repeatedly injured, the process of tearing and scarring may continue, weakening the disc wall.

Disc Center Weakens

Over time, the nucleus (or center) of the disc becomes damaged and loses some of its water content. This center is called the pulposus, and its water content is needed to keep the disc functioning as a shock absorber for the spine.

Nucleus Collapses

Unable to act as a cushion, the nucleus collapses. The vertebrae above and below this damaged disc slide closer together. This improper alignment causes the facet joints – the areas where the vertebral bones touch – to twist into an unnatural position.

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

In the earliest stages of degenerative disc disease, you may have persistent backaches that worsen over time. Common symptoms of progressing degenerative disc disease include:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Radiating pain 
  • Weakness in back, legs, and arms

Pain may worsen after long periods of walking or sitting. You may also experience difficulties walking due to weakness or numbness in your legs and feet. 

Schedule an Appointment

By age 60, you may start feeling the effects of degenerative disc disease. When chronic pain and limited mobility due to degenerative disc disease interferes with your life, contact Dr. Alicia Carter in New York today to discuss your treatment options. To schedule an appointment, you can reach our office by calling (833)794-7040.

How is Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosed?

To determine if your symptoms are due to degenerative disc disease or another underlying medical condition, Dr. Carter reviews your personal and family medical history and physically examines your spine. 

In many cases, imaging tests, like X-rays or an MRI, can show Dr. Carter the severity and location of your damaged discs. 

Dr. Carter creates a treatment plan that focuses on lessening your pain and improving the range of motion in your spine. 

How is Degenerative Disc Disease Treated?

When degenerative disc disease begins interfering with your ability to stay active, Dr. Carter may recommend surgery to remove the damaged disc. 

There are two types of minimally invasive surgery used to treat degenerative disc disease:


During a discectomy, Dr. Carter removes damaged disc material that is pressing on spinal nerves.

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion surgery involves the removal of the degenerated disc and the joining of two or more vertebrae to stabilize the spine. 

The type of surgery you have depends on the location and severity of your disc damage, your lifestyle, and your medical history. Dr. Carter discusses your options for surgery during your diagnostic appointment. 

If degenerative disc disease has left you disabled, schedule a consultation with Dr. Alicia Carter by calling the office or requesting an appointment online.


NY office

425 Madison Ave, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Tel: (212)794-7040

Miami Office

2800 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 1010
Miami, Florida 33137
Tel: (833)794-7040

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