Degenerative disc disease is among the most common causes of lower back pain. But despite its prevalence, many people have misconceptions about this condition.  To help clear up the confusion—and to enable you to better communicate with your doctor—here are 3 things you need to know about lumbar degenerative disc disease:

  1. Your symptoms won’t necessarily get worse over time

When you hear the term “degenerative,” it is logical to assume that your symptoms from degenerative disc disease will progressively worsen over time. This can be a frightening prospect, as you may already be experiencing intense lower back pain from degenerative disc disease. But the fact of the matter is that pain from degenerative disc disease actually tends to improve over time, not worsen (this is of course a general statement, and it is possible your symptoms will worsen with age).  So why is the term “degenerative” used? It refers to the process of your discs degenerating over time, as your discs tend to progressively deteriorate over the years.

  1. Degenerative disc disease is not a disease

Perhaps the most common misconception about degenerative disc disease is that it is in fact a disease. But degenerative disc disease is a degenerative condition that is part of the natural aging process, not a disease.  This means that most people will eventually experience some degree of degeneration to their spinal discs. But the good news is that the majority of people will not experience any symptoms from disc degeneration.  Furthermore, the degree of degeneration is not always connected to the severity of your symptoms. For example, a person might have severely degenerated discs but experience only minor discomfort.

  1. Surgery is the exception, not the rule

Many patients fear that they will eventually need to undergo surgery to address their degenerative disc disease. But the vast majority of degenerative disc disease cases can be successfully treated with conservative measures, including:

Physical therapy (Heat and/or cold therapy, electrical stimulation, exercise, etc.)

Activity modification

Pain medication

Surgery is typically only considered if your day-to day functioning is severely limited by your symptoms (and you have not responded to conservative treatments). If this is the case, your medical professional may recommend lumbar spinal fusion surgery or lumbar disc replacement surgery depending on your specific situation.

At Quantum Rehabilitation, we can provide you with a program specifically designed to treat your symptoms.  Call us at 870-234-7604 and let us evaluate you to determine if physical therapy is right for you.