7 Telltale Signs of Disc Degeneration

7 Telltale Signs of Disc Degeneration

Your discs are the unsung heroes of your spine, resting quietly between each pair of vertebrae where they provide protection and cushioning for your bones and nerves. But if you’re one of the millions of Americans with disc degeneration, you’re keenly aware of your discs — and the pain that can happen when they begin to break down.

Disc degeneration is a chronic condition that becomes a lot more common as we get older. Healthy discs are filled with a gel that helps them maintain their shape and flexibility. But as we age, our discs start to lose some of the moisture that keeps them plump and resilient. 

Like other spine issues, degenerative disc disease responds best to early treatment. Knowing the signs and symptoms of disc disease is important for making sure you get the care you need as soon as possible. 

With offices in Carmel, Indianapolis, and Kokomo, Indiana, Jonathan Gentile, MD, uses a customized, patient-centered approach to care for men and women with degenerative disc disease. Here are seven symptoms you should know about, so you can get treatment as soon as possible.

#1 Back pain

Discs maintain the space between our vertebrae, making room for the nerves that travel through the spine and exit before traveling to the arms, legs, and other parts of the body. When discs begin to degenerate or “break down,” that space shrinks, and nerves in the back — particularly the mobile lower back — become compressed, causing back pain and chronic aching.

#2 Neck pain

Disc degeneration symptoms are also common in the neck or cervical spine, another area of the spine that’s very mobile. When you turn or bend your neck, you’re more likely to pinch the nerves where the disc is affected. Pain can come and go or be chronic and persistent.

#3 Pain or numbness in your arms or legs

When disc degeneration causes nerve compression, you can have symptoms anywhere along the path of that nerve. That means you can wind up having pain, numbness, or tingling down into your arms or legs, depending on which disc is affected.

#4 Weakness or loss of coordination in your legs

The nerves in your spine don’t just control sensation — they control your movements, too. When a nerve is compressed due to disc degeneration, you may find your arm or leg movements are affected, and it might be difficult to perform coordinated tasks like walking or buttoning a shirt.

#5 Pain when sitting down

Many people with disc degeneration notice their symptoms get worse after sitting for an extended period of time. That’s because sitting puts more pressure on your spine, increasing compression on the nerves affected by the damaged disc.

#6 Pain when bending 

Bending over or twisting from side to side causes further compression around the damaged disc, along with intensified pain in your back or neck. If you bend or twist while bearing weight or lifting an object, that pain can be even worse.

#7 Pain that’s relieved when changing positions

When a nerve is compressed by a damaged disc or vertebra, shifting your position can help “open up” your spine and relieve compression temporarily. That’s why many people find brief relief from their symptoms when they lean forward when sitting or even walk around.

Disc degeneration affects people in different ways, and Dr. Gentile customizes every treatment plan for optimal relief. Some treatment options he recommends include:

If you’re having symptoms of degenerative disc disease, don’t delay getting treatment. To schedule an evaluation with Dr. Gentile, book an appointment online or over the phone today.

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