If you've noticed low back pain that's come on gradually and seems to be getting worse, you may have lumbar degenerative disc disease (DDD). This condition is common in aging adults. The intervertebral discs serve as the spine’s shock absorbers and, as we age, discs gradually dry out, losing strength and resiliency. In most people, these changes are gradual. In fact, you may not know you have DDD.
Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA Health
Your doctor will ask your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order diagnostic tests that may include:
Most cases of lumbar degenerative disc disease do not require surgery. Many different nonsurgical treatments can help relieve symptoms.
If symptoms of lumbar DDD persist, despite nonoperative treatments, you may require further diagnostic tests that include:
You may require surgery if your surgeon discovers that one or more intervertebral discs are damaged and causing pain or other symptoms. The surgical procedure likely will include a discectomy (removal of the damaged disc) and interbody fusion (fusing together the vertebrae above and below the disc space).
Your provider may also speak to you about artificial disc replacement. This is a surgical option that often helps people avoid spinal fusion. Your doctor can talk to you about the risks and benefits of this option.
Many procedures are performed using minimally invasive techniques, which can help speed your recovery.