Woman holding poster of human spine

Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease: Causes and Symptoms

Most patients with lumbar degenerative disc disease experience continuous but tolerable pain which that intensifies occasionally. However, there are times that the disease can cause severe pain and possible disability, which necessary calls for disc pain treatment.

What is Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease?

It is a degenerative disc disease which occurs in the lumbar spine or lower back. It pertains to a condition where a compromised disc causes lower back pain.

This is a condition where a damaged disc causes chronic lower back pain in the lumbar spine. The damage to this disc either occurs naturally or through a twisting injury where portions of the disc may tear.

This injury in the lumbar spine or the lower back can create motion instability at the vertebrae, as the disc can no longer hold the vertebral segment together. Moreover, since the disc does not have a blood supply, it has no way to repair itself, which means the pain can last for years.

What are the Causes of Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease?

Lumbar degenerative disc disease is usually experienced from either one or both of two sources.

The low back pain associated with lumbar degenerative disc disease is usually experienced as an effect of inflammation. It occurs when proteins in the lumbar spine disc irritate the surrounding nerves—both small and large—that go up to the legs.

Another cause of the lumbar pain is abnormal micro-motion instability, which occurs when the outer rings of the disc are worn down and no longer effectively absorb stress in the spine. Such incapacity to absorb stress results in the movement along the vertebral segment.

When excessive micro-motion instability is coupled with inflammatory proteins, it may result in a chronic and on-going lower back pain.

However, the pain decreases over a long period of time, as a fully degenerated disc can run out of inflammatory proteins that cause the pain. The disc also collapses into a stable position which ends the micro-motion instability which is another source of pain.

What are the Symptoms of Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease?

Symptoms of the disease can vary from one person to another. But most patients of this lumbar disc disease will experience low-grade but continuous pain which may intensify for a few days.

Some of the most common symptoms are the following, to wit:

  • Pain that is centered on the lower back which can radiate to the hips and legs;
  • Lower back pain that is continuous and has lasted for more than six weeks;
  • The sensation is often described as more of a painful ache in the lower back rather than a searing or burning pain that radiates;
  • Pain that frequently worsens when sitting or when the lumbar discs experience a heavier load than when patients are standing, walking or even laying down. The pain can also be aggravated by prolonged standing in the same manner as bending forward and lifting an object;
  • Pain that is exacerbated by certain movements like bending, twisting or lifting;
  • Numbness and tingling in the legs and the difficulty in walking;
  • Leg pain from the nerve root pinching, which is caused if the disc space collapses;
  • Pain and other symptoms are experienced from minimal motions as the disc becomes weaker;
  • Leg pain, numbness and tingling where nerves can become sensitized with inflammation from the proteins within the disc space and produce the sensation of numbness or tingling. However, the pain does not generally go below the knee.


What are the Treatments for Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease?

Commonly, treatment for lumbar degenerative disc disease can be non-surgical or conservative treatment, comprised mostly of medication to control and suppress the pain and inflammation.

This could be in the form of steroid medications, which can be taken either orally or through epidural injections. It can also be in the form of therapy and exercises specifically designed to ease lumbar disc pain.

Surgery is only considered when patients have not achieved the desired relief from non-surgical treatments for a period of six months or the pains have put a tremendous toll on the patient’s regular or daily activities.

However, before non-surgical treatments are used, the first step towards attaining relief from lumbar pains is modifying daily activities. As such, a patient is normally advised to avoid aggravating activities, especially those which involved lifting of heavy objects and playing sports which require rotation of the hips or lower back.

If you’re having pain from lumbar degenerative disc disease, make an appointment to see the professionals here at Arizona Pain and Spine Institute.