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Degenerative Spine Conditions

What Is Degenerative Spine Disease?

Degenerative spine disease, also known as degenerative spine disorder, is when the spine’s form and function gradually decrease over time. These conditions mostly develop due to aging, but other factors can play a role, including infections or tumors.

Types of Degenerative Spine Disease and Conditions

Whether your spine has experienced everyday wear and tear, or you have suffered an infection, there are different types of degenerative spine diseases that may affect you.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Lumbar stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back. The narrowing occurs in the spaces between your spine and can cause pain to the nerves within. The main cause of lumbar stenosis is osteoarthritis, which is wear and tear on your joints over time. Symptoms can include numbness in your legs, pain in your back and sciatica may develop. Treatment options for lumbar stenosis can include surgery. During surgery, your surgeon will remove the vertebrae that are pinching the nerve to help alleviate the pain.

Herniated Discs

A herniated disc, also known as a slipped disc or a ruptured disc, is a condition that occurs when the soft center of a spinal disc bulges out through a tear in the outer layer of the disc. This can cause the disc to press on nearby nerves or the spinal cord, which can cause pain, numbness and weakness in the affected area. Herniated discs most commonly occur in the lower back (lumbar spine) and the neck (cervical spine), although they can also occur in the mid-back (thoracic spine). 

Herniated discs can be caused by a variety of factors, including age-related wear and tear, repetitive stress injuries, and trauma. The most common symptoms of a herniated disc include back pain, leg pain (sciatica), and neck pain. Treatment options for a herniated disc may include medications, physical therapy and in some cases, surgery. The appropriate treatment will depend on the severity of the herniation and the individual patient's symptoms and medical history.

Osteoarthritis of the Spine

Osteoarthritis of the spine, also known as spinal osteoarthritis or spinal degenerative joint disease, is a form of osteoarthritis that affects the spine. Osteoarthritis is a type of joint disease that occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears away, causing the bones to rub together. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving the affected joint. 

Osteoarthritis of the spine can occur in any part of the spine, but it most commonly affects the neck (cervical spine) and the lower back (lumbar spine). It is more common in people who are older and in those who have a history of joint injury or overuse. The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine include back pain, neck pain, stiffness, and difficulty with mobility. 

Treatment options for osteoarthritis of the spine may include medications, physical therapy, and in some cases, surgery. The appropriate treatment will depend on the severity of the osteoarthritis and the individual patient's symptoms and medical history. It is important for people with osteoarthritis of the spine to work closely with their healthcare team to develop a treatment plan that is appropriate for their individual needs. 


Sciatica can be caused by a pinched nerve in the spine or a herniated disc. This condition affects the lower back and can travel down one or both of the legs. Sciatica can be caused by other spine conditions including osteoarthritis and herniated discs. Symptoms of sciatica include numbness, tingling and pain that radiates from the low back into the legs and feet. Non-surgical treatment options such as physical therapy and pain relievers  are the best options to help manage and reduce pain. 

Symptoms of Degenerative Spine Diseases

Common symptoms of degenerative spine diseases can include pain, limited movement or mobility and spinal deformities. If you experience signs and symptoms of a degenerative spine disease, it’s important to notify your doctor. Schedule an appointment to talk about your symptoms and any concerns you may have.

Degenerative Spine Diseases Testing and Diagnosis

Your spine specialist may order imaging tests to better determine the type of degenerative spine disease. Testings may include CT scan and MRIs. These tests can help show the soft tissue that may be affected by the disorder.

Learn more about spine testing and diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Degenerative Spine Diseases

At Banner Brain & Spine, our specialists take the non-surgical approach whenever possible. Our specialists will often recommend physical therapy as the first route of treatment for your degenerative spine disease. This will help to strengthen the muscles in your back and keep your spine and back strong.

Learn more about the non-surgical spine treatment options available.