What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease Pain: Discussing causes and non-surgical degenerative disc disease treatment options

Degenerative disc disease is a normal part of the aging process. In fact, some adults may show signs of degenerative disc disease on MRI without experiencing any symptoms! Unfortunately, others will experience painful and debilitating symptoms that can affect their quality of life. Pain caused by degenerative disc disease can also be referred to different parts of the body through spinal nerves serving areas like the arms, hands, legs, and head. Understanding one of the most common causes of this pain is the best way to get effective treatment. Keep reading to learn more about this condition, a common but little-discussed cause, and degenerative disc disease treatment options.

Degenerative Disc Disease: an overview

Degenerative disc disease is a very common condition caused when the spinal discs begin to wear down as a result of age or some other cause. Spinal discs act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae in the spine, protecting and cushioning them as well as providing flexibility for the spine. If these discs begin to degenerate, that can cause a variety of issues leading to back pain.

Risk factors for this condition include 

  • Acute injuries
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Working a physically demanding job

Symptoms of degenerative disc disease tend to be felt where the damaged discs are located, such as the lumbar or cervical spine. This condition rarely develops in the thoracic spine. Common symptoms include:

  • Mild to severe pain in the lower back
  • Pain that radiates to the buttocks and thighs
  • Pain that is worse when sitting, bending, lifting, or twisting
  • Pain that is better when changing positions frequently
  • Periods of varying back pain, from a few days to a few months
  • Numbness or weakness in leg muscles or feet
  • Muscle spasms or tension
  • Loss of balance

Degenerative Disc Disease Pain

In order to explain one of the most common causes of degenerative disc disease pain, we need to explain the spinal disc. 

Spinal Disc Anatomy

Spinal discs are made up of the nucleus pulposus and the annulus fibrosis. The easiest way to picture the makeup of spinal discs is to imagine them like jelly doughnuts.

The nucleus pulposus is a jelly-like substance found inside the spinal disc that allows spinal discs to function as cushions between the vertebrae. The nucleus pulposus provides the spine with flexibility and movement, allowing it to bend and twist.

The annulus fibrosus is the outer layer of the spinal disc. This portion is made of 22-25 layers of fibers that connect to the vertebrae above and below the disc. The annulus fibrosus also contains the nucleus pulposus, stopping it from leaking and causing issues in the spine.

The annulus fibrosus and nucleus pulposus work together to evenly distribute force and stress placed on the spine, prevent the vertebrae from rubbing against each other, and ensure that spinal nerves don’t become pinched or compressed.

Annular Tears

Unfortunately, as we age or after injury, the fibers of the annulus fibrosus may begin to break down because of daily wear and tear. As these fibers break down, certain motions or injuries can increase stress on the spinal discs until they develop annular tears. Traumatic injuries leading to annular tears are most commonly seen in high-impact sports like gymnastics and football, but sports like weight lifting and golf can cause annular tears as well.

These tears can allow the nucleus pulposus to leak from the center of the spinal disc. Because it is perceived as a foreign substance, the body reacts by causing painful inflammation, which is the cause of many disc issues that contribute to back pain. This is why finding appropriate degenerative disc disease treatment options is crucial for many patients.

Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment Options

The bottom line is that if you’re looking for degenerative disc disease treatment options, the most effective option will be successfully treating annular tears. So how can these tears be treated? Annular tears cannot be sewn or operated on in any way that will effectively heal them. Fortunately, our practice offers two great options that have been able to help patients find relief from degenerative disc disease pain.


SpineRenu is a procedure in which a patient’s bone marrow is drawn with the goal of using the stem cells found in the bone marrow to encourage healing in the affected spinal disc or discs. Once the bone marrow is drawn, it is filtered and centrifuged, and processed stem cells are injected into the nucleus pulposus of the damaged spinal discs.

The stem cells then work to heal the damaged spinal disc similarly to how they would work to heal injuries throughout the rest of the body. This is a non-surgical, minimally invasive, orthobiologic spine procedure. Like other orthobiologic procedures, it allows patients to avoid surgeries and heal much faster than they would using common treatment methods. SpineRenu has helped patients struggling with the following conditions:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated discs
  • Sciatica
  • Chronic lower back pain

The Discseel® Procedure

The Discseel® Procedure is a minimally invasive, non-surgical, orthobiologic procedure that utilizes fibrin, a natural biologic formed from fibrinogen during the body’s natural blood clotting process. Fibrin works by forming a fibrous mesh that impedes blood flow and encourages new tissue to grow, healing cuts and tears, like annular tears. The Discseel® Procedure utilizes these natural healing processes and applies them to torn spinal discs, which can’t heal themselves without assistance.

The fibrin used in the Discseel® Procedure is able to seal annular tears, stopping the nucleus pulposus from leaking. Fibrin then encourages the spinal discs to grow new tissue over the course of a year, completing the healing process.

This procedure has been used to help patients suffering from the following conditions:

  • Annular tears
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated discs
  • Sciatica
  • Chronic lower back pain

Non-Surgical Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment Options in Glen Mills, PA

Most common treatments for degenerative disc disease and other spine conditions are unable to heal annular tears. Unfortunately, when annular tears are the underlying cause of spine conditions, this means that unless they’re addressed, you’ll continue to deal with the back pain they cause.

Fortunately, orthobiologic degenerative disc disease treatment options like SpineRenu and the Discseel® Procedure are available and capable of facilitating the healing process for annular tears, providing relief from back pain. These treatment options are non-surgical and non-invasive and once the healing process is complete, mobility won’t be limited as it would following spine surgery. We understand that our patients’ top priority is recovering and getting back to their lives as quickly as possible, and we’re here to help you do that!

If you’d like to learn more or schedule a consultation, please call our office in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, at (610) 459-4200 or fill out our form. We welcome your inquiry and we look forward to helping you get back to the game of life!

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