Reviewed by Dr. Clement J. Cheng
Back pain is one of the most frustrating chronic diseases. Degenerative disk disease is a back disorder that occurs as part of the aging process. It is usually caused by osteoarthritis of the spine, which irritates the vertebrae of the spine with excessive use. When the vertebrae become inflamed due to overuse, they work to heal themselves and leave calcium deposits and bone spurs as side effects. The pain and stiffness that result from this imperfect healing process are known as degenerative disk disease.
Degenerative disk disease is a general classification including herniated or ruptured disk, prolapsed intervertebral disk, and others.
The disks in the spine are like small sponges that rest between each vertebrae and act as shock absorbers. When arthritis compresses a disk, it tends to bulge out of its alignment; sometimes, it will rupture. When it does, the rupture will usually occur posteriorly. The displaced disk segment may then press on the spinal nerve as it emerges from the spinal cord, or on the cord itself.