If you ever had back or neck pain, got sent for x-ray imaging and were told you have degenerative disc disease (DDD), then this blog post is for you. This is a “diagnosis” that is often thrown around and used by lazy practitioners to blame all your back or neck pain on.
DDD is when the intervertebral discs in the spine gradually dehydrate and lose their height over time. It is a NATURAL process that occurs in virtually EVERYONE and research has consistently shown that it is often present in people that have NO back pain. In fact, 37% of people aged 20 and 52% of people aged 30 had signs of “degenerated discs” on their CT scan or MRI results (Brinjikji et al, 2015).
What we can say for sure is that “degenerating discs” appear to be a normal part of aging and should NOT be classified as a “disease”. We know that as people get older, they start to get wrinkles on their skin too. Yet we don’t call this “degenerative skin disease”. How silly would that be?
The point is, that neck or back pain are very common and can happen to anyone. Degenerated discs are also very common, but that does not mean that it’s related to pain. Otherwise, it would mean that the majority of the population would be doomed to have spinal pain with no cure for the rest of their lives. But we know that spinal pain is often benign and can recover quickly with treatment or over time, which means that the presence of degenerated discs is irrelevant. So next time someone tries to tell you that DDD is the cause of your back pain, my advice is to get another opinion and reconsider the intentions of the person telling you this.