A degenerative disc is given when the intervertebral disc (pillow between the spinal bones) fluid content decreases and the spinal structure loses in height. Flexibility in the spine is essential to perform the movements our daily lives demand. At birth, 80% of the human disc is composed by water, which is essential in order to function well.
The discs in the spine in general have the function to 1) absorb shock caused by movement and 2) to facilitate
the synchronized movement of the vertebrae (Waldman, 2015). Through the anatomical movements of extension, flexion, lateral bending and rotation, mechanical forces and loading on the spine and disc occur, making the rigid vertebrae move against each other, cushioned by the in between lying discs.
The anatomy of the disc looks like plate, with the inner part of it called the nucleus, and the outer part, the “rim” called the anulus fibrosus.
In more severe cases pain can be referred down into the buttock or leg (radiculopathy or ischiatic pain).
Disc degeneration is the most common cause of back pain in adults (Vasiliadis et al., 2014); and although a lot of research has been done on the degenerative process of the disc, the exact cause why the degenerative process starts is still not clear (Vasiliadis et al., 2014).
In the acute phase taking anti-inflammatories for pain relief; physiotherapy helps further with pain release, regain of mobility and strengthening exercises.
Waldman S.D., 2016, Physical Diagnosis of Pain E-Book: An Atlas for Signs and Symptoms, Elsevier, 3rd Edition, St. Louis, Missouri, p: 215
Vasiliadis E.S. et al., 2014, Biologic Treatment of Mild and Moderate Intervertebral Disc Degeneration, Molecular Medicine, 20(1), pp: 400-449