Avatar universal

degenerative disc disease

Hey everyone- i'm new here, and looking for any information I can gather on my back condition- what has worked for others and what hasn't.

I'm 20 years old, and I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease when I was 16.  I used to be an avid and competitive runner, but had to stop due to my condition.  After I quit competitive running, things with my back seemed to get better for the most part, I only had occasional flare ups.  This was until a month ago, when I got the dreaded numb and tingly foot sensation in my right foot.  I did a little physical therapy and thought things would go back to normal after my nerve calmed down.  Then last week, I woke up to a sharp (like knife sharp) pain down my right leg and foot.  I couldn't walk or crawl- it was so scary.
My spinal specialist said the degeneration was perhaps getting worse and causing some sort of pressure on my sciatic nerve.  Currently I'm on a dose of oral steroids, 3 vicodin and muscle relaxants at night to sleep, and a nice large dose of ibuprofen during the day.  I am also slowly progressing through physical therapy, very very slowly, but I know it will help.  I am thinking about getting an epidural shot next week, if these steroids don't help.  Surgery is most def. my last option.

It is totally getting to me physically, emotionally, everything.  I have always been so active, and now I can hardly walk a few blocks to school, let alone sit in class without wanting to chop my legs off.  I'm scared that this is going to be my life sentence, to live in fear of this kind of pain and lifestyle.  I can no longer socialize with friends, because I am so tired at the end of the day, and so drugged up that I just want to come home and sleep or lay in bed with the heating pad.
I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel- I just need some advice from those who have experienced this first hand.  Thanks for any advice/suggestions on treatments, exercise, etc.
21 Responses
176803 tn?1198539598
  I too was told I had DDD when young. I am not a doc. but can tell you my experience.
  It wasn't DDD that caused my pain. It was herniated disks that came with it, along with the herniations pressing on the nerves. As far as I know, the DDD isn't going to give you those pains. (Not that it don't hurt and surly contributes to the other problems).  You obviously have something pinching the nerves, its not the DDD doing that.
  Did you have a recent MRI? If you are having those problems and the doc. is diagnosing that those pains are from DDD that was detected in an old MRI...he is guessing. He should be ordering a new MRI to rule out herniation, etc. Trust me, i've been through this many times.
  My most recent surgery was Feb. 20 2007 for another herniated disk pressing on my thecal sac. It started out them saying it was DDD. But I know my back and the many different kinds of pains and symptoms. Even 2 weeks -post-op they wanted to say DDD again as well as still healing. AGAIN, another MRI proved a new herniated disk pressing nerves.
  It can get very frusting I know. I even got hurt 2 daqys after my last MRI...still having to convince them that, but I am going for a 2 level fusion so i'm sure my new surgeon will check into it.
  Anyway, the DDD does cause pain, but not in my experience THAT kind of pain. If your doc. has not ordered a recent MRI... TELL him to do so. I also with my first surgery years ago, was told I had a sprained back, pulled muscles, etc....I was on workers comp. so all my tests had to be pre-approved and I went through different CAT scans, mylograms, x-rays, you name it and was told nothing was there but DDD. Finally, after getting a new surgeon and an MRI approved...there it was...a large herniated disk with compression. Was there all the time and the other docs. thinking I was crazy. I was so upset, and it took them over 6 months of tests, different x-rays, PT, you name it.  So now....I say I want an MRI first, skip the BS.
             Good luck and keep us informed.
Avatar universal
I just had an MRI done last week- the dr. says that it is not a herniated disc, which he even suspected before I had the MRI done.  Good to know though, it is hard to put complete trust in a doctor's opinion, especially when they usually don't give you much time.

Did you find that surgery helped much, or did it cause more problems?
Avatar universal
Well, my mother who is 50 have degenerative disc disease. It does cause pain her back. Those discs crumbling which causes to press her cushion (nerves) whatever its called. She also have problems with her neck as well. She said its crumbling. She has been seeing pain management, had several treatments - got injections on her back then recently two injections above her butt....she felt fine for first two days, then 3rd day...she said OMG its so PAINFUL. So it is not helping her. So now surgeon are discussing about her to have a surgery. She'll need to have surgery as soon as possible - I'll try to explain as best as I can, surgeon told her that two of her disc -- if two slipped in opposite way then she could get paralyzed. So that's what it worries my mom. She have been real upset about this and she didn't really want to have surgery but she has to because she don't want to be paralyzed and be stuck in wheelchair for life. Anyway, she've been taking calcium pills and other kind of vitamins to strengthen and to make her bones stronger. She's trying everything to make it better. As of right now, she takes 2 times a day of Darvocet and 2 times a day of Vicodin, plus other several medicines unrelated to her back. She does have health problems - digestive, upper respiratory (cause heartburns), etc. She also have Emphysema. I pray that all will go well for you and my mother too. *hugs*
Avatar universal
i am also 20 yrs old and got diagnosed with DDD and 3 herniated disks at the age of 15 tho. i also get pains in my right leg and sometimes in my left, stabbing pains. i've been to and through everything and nothing has subsided the pain besides all the medications i've been on like for instance, Fentanyl patches, Oxycontin. now i'm not taking anything except for smokin a sh*t load of POT. that helps me eat and helps me sleep.  i've been to so many docs its unbelievable and the thing that hurts the most is they still dont kno wats exactly causing my pain. i've been diagnosed with so much other sh*t so i really dont kno wats wrong with me and the only thing real now is PAIN. i kno wat you mean by its getting to you physically, emotionally. i used to be so active and out riding bikes everyday for as long as i could. even when i was diagnosed with this i still said f*ck it and went out riding all day long. then things started to get worse. i started to feel more pain so i completely stopped doing everything, going out with my friends, going out to the movies, concerts u name it and i dont do it cuz of my pain. if you're pain isnt getting any better i would go for surgery. thats one thing i've put off and now im kinda wishing i had surgery. i would rather be laying in my bed getting some wat better then laying there thinking and knowing things are only going to get worse. let me tell you you're not the only one thats afraid of this lifestyle. i've been so terrified of living like this for the rest of my life. im afraid of not being able to live a LIFE again. i've lost all hope, faith, trust, everything. the only thing keeping me alive and kickin is just knowing if i come out of this alive im gonna be stronger then anyone i kno. im glad i found you on here cuz we have so much in common. i feel like i've lost my life due to this PAIN i feel 24/7. if you need to talk about sh*t im here to listen. you can keep posting on here or you can email me at ***@**** until then take care and just remember you're not alone in this COLD COLD A$$ world.
Avatar universal
today was a bit better- i think i overdid it though with walking a lot.  Steroids are helping I think a bit- I could move my toes for awhile today!

I'm just having a hard time still sitting through class without getting a lot of pain; work is hard too since I have an office job where I sit for 2-3 hours at a time.

I'm learning to be patient with myself, but I am still so scared that I will live like this, or worse for a long time.  

Has anyone really been able to fully recover from DDD?  I so desperatley want to know/have hope that I will be back to normal, and active again.
Avatar universal
Wow- it sounds like you have it pretty bad.  I'm so so so sorry.  I know that sympathy is sometimes the last thing you want to hear- or at least that is how I feel.  I don't want others sympathy- I just want to be better damnit.  ya know?  It is just nice to know that there are others out there that understand what life is like with this ****, and how frusterating it is every day, and how not knowing really why or what is going on with your body.  I'm finding the hardest part is trying to tell my friends, my boyfriend, and just others in general, without sounding crazy.  No one really understands, and I hate sounding weak, and having to decline invitations to do things "because of my back problem'.  God I hate it so much.
Are you going to school or are you just laid up at home a lot?  School has been so hard- I had to drop a couple of classes due to all of this.  Sorry for the pessimism- I know there is hope, we have our youth at least!
Hope your holdin' up.
Avatar universal
I am 27 and an MRI just detected 2 "desicating discs"(degeneration) and possibly 1 more. I was in more pain that ever 2 weeks ago. I went to the ER because I could not walk. I was scared to death. The Dr's sent me to physical therapy and gave me lots of drugs and said go away. I was referred to a great chiropractor. The dr's said NO WAY, but I went to see him. He is a corrective chiropractor, not a reflief one. He doesn't just go in and "do adjustments", he actullay put me on a plan to correct the problem and he hasn't "adjusted" me yet. I have had 2 sessions of "decompression therapy" which I studied about before I went. There are actually alot of bone docs that use this therapy now for DDD, called VAX-D. Chiros started this therapy, but docs will never admitt it. It actually pulls your spine apart slowly with 20 sessions, allows those discs to get fluid, blood and oxygen and be sucked back into place. Although I have only been twice and it hurt afterward the first time........I feel great. I am like a totally different person. A week ago I couldn't walk and had to sit all the time. Now, I only have a little discomfort on my right side. He will start adjusting me after I stop hurting.
Avatar universal
chekc out www.decompressiondrsearch.com
176803 tn?1198539598
that is great to hear.
Avatar universal
I will def. check that out.  I need to find something else- these drugs are not doin' it, and they are making me feel worse in other ways.  Thanks for the advice!
Avatar universal
yeah i know exactly wat you mean. im a damn hermit crab basically, im always inside but today i told myself i need to get out dammit so i went to BERKLEY, Ca since i live so close, i just had to go to the club and get some medicine if you kno wat i mean. n e way i kno wat you mean about telling everybody cuz they dont understand like damn its creepy that your tellin me this cuz everything you say im going thru. none of my f*ckin so called friends understand y i sit here all day only cuz im in so much pain with or without pain killers. lifes a B*TCH and  right now i dont have n e thing to take for my pain so i kno wat this **** does to you, its basically ruined my life. damn i wish i could go to school but i can barely sit for 30 mins. at least. this back problem is no joke and i wish i would've done something 5yrs ago to prevent this like surgery. just keep your head up as i will do myself. take care and i hope things get better for you.

Avatar universal
Hi, This is my first writing but have read this post many times. I'm am 43 years old and have ddd at L1-L2 and L3-L4. Also bulging discs at all of the rest of my discs. One going into my nerve. I had epidural shots that did not work, PT, cortisone shots, and many meds, anti-inflam. muscle relax, pain med, etc. Finally last May 2006 I had fusion surgery. Almost 1 year later there is no fusion and my pain has continued and even gotten worse. I continue with stabbing cronic pain in my lower back and shooting pain down my right buttocks to my foot. My third opinion by a spine neurosurgeon after examing me and seeing my CT scans and MRI's says there is nothing more they can do other than manage my pain with meds and pray for healing. I have lost my job and have applied for disability. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks
Avatar universal
Hi there to all,

3 years ago, during my second rotation in Iraq, I was doing something that I did for many years in the Army.  I was simply moving aircraft parts in order to get a helicopter ready for regular maintenance.  I felt a sharp pain in my back, and after trying to walk it off for a couple of weeks, finally went to the flight surgeon.  I guess my simptoms of bowl and bladder weakness was a big red flag and had me shipped out of theater and eventually back to the states.

En route to Ft. Hood, the hospital in Germany found two ruptured discs.  One at L2/L3 and the other at L5/S1.  Six months after I got back to Texas, I had my first surgery.  This was back in October 2004.  Much better!!, even though I was diagnosed with DDD.  I even went back to work.  I sure did miss my aircraft.  But then I started to have more bad days than good and in January 2006, I had a major setback.  Worse than the first time.  MRI couldn't show much because of the hardware, but x-rays showed a possible failure of hardwar and a shifting in the vertebre.  The MRI did show a new rupture at L1/L2 though.

My new doc here at Ft. Hood, by the grace of God, wanted to have an CT Meylogram done.  This was done to visually see the nerves and their path.  Unfortunately, it also showed something I knew nothing about.  Adhesive Arachnoiditis.  That look on your face is exactly what I had too!  Blink, blink.... blink, blink..... "What in the world?... I'm not afraid of spiders!!"  If you think DDD is scary... look that disease up.

Those simple things that we all take for granted, I do look at completely different now.  My wife is my biggest supporter, and bless her heart, still puts my boots on for me when I have to go to work.  Yes, I am still in the Army, but they are going to medically retire me.

The pain was so unbearable, I was having to take morhene, oxycontin, fentinal lollypops, flexeril, valium, and percocet..... everyday... all day long.  This only took a file to the sharp edges of the pain.  I hated that drug induced stupor it put me in too.  My wife, my hero, was able to keep my spirits up.  I can laugh about that drug induced stupor now, because I no longer have all those pills.  No I am not cured.  There is no cure for my disease and only a progressive worsening of the disease.  I now have a Spinal Chord Stimulator implanted to help control the pain.

This SCS is made by Medtronic and it plays interception with the pain signals traveling in my spinal chord.  Instead of my brain receiving the pain signals, it receives an electrical signal.  I now only have valium, percocet, and flexeril as my meds.  I still have bad days that I have to lay down for a few hours, but I can still get out and about.  Sometimes the pain is so that I take my meds, but I try not to take them very often.  I still have my walker just in case my battery fails, but for now it is collecting dust!

I told you my story so you can see that no matter how bad it gets, the sun can still shine.  It is still tough for me to hold my head up high, but I do what I can day by day.  I no longer worry about the future, because if I did.... I would never get out of bed.

If your doctor is not listening to you....if your doctor isn't answering your questions.... fire them, vote them off the island, tell them they have no talent and send them on their way.  You as a patient have the right to receive competent medical treatment.  I was lucky with my doc... she is an orthopedic surgeon that specialized in spine surgery.  Talk to a pain management doc as well.  Good luck and keep your chin up.  Sorry to make this so long.
Mike ***@****
Avatar universal
hii there,
i was experiencing acute back pain at early stage.later after a few months to the doctor he said to me to undergo an x-ray and it showed reduced disc space in d3-d4 disc.and referred me to certain excersise.but later after few days cervical pain started in my neck.and when i wake up in the morning my neck becomes stiff and after certain cracking in the neck it becomes alrite.but i am not able to move it like i was earlier.still stiffness persists in my neck.and also i am experiencing pain in my arms.i am only 20 years of age.can anybody help in this respect.i'll be really greatful as i am going thru a traumatic phase in ma life.
you can mail me at khanna_sumit20***@**** and plz help me if anyone can.
Avatar universal
Last Oct. I was diagnosed with L4-L5 Disc Buldge and annular tear, L5-S1 disc herniation, DDD at L4-L5 & L5-S1.  I had a discectomy in November.  (Prior to that in 1993 I had L5-S1 disc herniation and had 2 lumbar lamenectomies).  After surgery I was worse!!!  I lost all the strength in my back, I could not even turn over in  bed.  Not to mention I had a f'd up headache for a bout 10 days cause I leaked spinal fluid during surgery.  The pain was worse than before.  Then Feb, went back to the surgeon and he said that is was the ddd causing the pain across my back and down the FRONT and BACK of my thighs.  Also, pain down the sides of my legs to my ankles and alot of times to my heels.  So he suggested I go to pain management or do fusion.  I have two children 7 &3, I did not want to do another surgery, that would be #4!!!  Crazy!!!  So I opted for the Pm Doc.  I had 3 rounds of edidural injections last year...no improvement.  I am also taking Flexeril and 2 to 3 vicodins to sleep at night and tylenol and motrin during the day!!!  So now we were approaching March of this year and the pain is worse, worse than ever.  I can't even sit or stand w/o pain!!!!  So I go back he wants to try the shot again, so I did,  that was may.  Now after the shot even more pain.  Now he wants me in PT 3x a week.  I went to PT on Tuesday, and they assesed me. They want me in the pool for the first 2 weeks.  But just from them probing, OMG!!!!  I can not take it anymore!!!!  Now, I have to go tomorrow, the thought of just going...OH!!!  Did I mention that I'm only 33yrs old!!!  Yup, 33, some life this is.  And to put the icing on the cake, I don't even have a damn accident to blame this on!!!!!!  Just collapsed one day!!!!!
Avatar universal
I had an epidural for childbirth whereby on insertion my right leg kicked out.  My back has never been right sinse but for years I plodded on working in nurseries and schools etc.  Then one day I got to the point I was out shopping and could not put another foot forward with pain.  To cut a long story short my G.P/Orthapedics sent me for MRI where they told me I had degenerative condition of the disks and from there I ended up with discectomy/bone grafts and spinal fusion L4,L5 and S1.  Today about 5 years on I'm perhaps in more pain more often.  I use crutches to get around short distances eg around the house.  Other than that I have to use the wheel chair.  My husband is my rock,my future, my happiness and laughter, and with my teenage boys I  have every hope to fight upwards and onwards on the good days.  On the bad days the best thing I can do is up my medication and retire to bed with magazines, books, dvds etc away from everyone as I don't suffer lightly and am not the best person to be around in such state.  After many trials in medication and much physio my doctor now prescribes butrans patches/oramorph liquid pregabalin and celebrex.  A combination that appears to bring back some quality of life with some relief of pain and sleep.  At worse I can alter the medication to suit without fear of overdose or addiction.  It did however take a few weeeks to get into system properly and then needed tweaking to get the right doseage.  I now have a little more confidence and cherpier outlook for the future whilst I endeavour to wait for the inevitable cure from science.  If asked I am glad I tried the fusion option it may have worked, I was unlucky.  Either way my condition would have deteriated the way it was going anyway and hopefully with much life ahead of me it was well worth the risks.  I have been through those darkest of times when you feel through pain that life just is not worth it and that pain is just too much to bare; the humiliation of accepting you need help from other people and the acceptance of using wheelchairs and such personal aids.  The thoughts of being a burden on others for the rest of your life. . .My advice is to keep one good doctor who will woork with you to find your relief, but trial things for 6-8 weeks to see if they work first.  Yes its hard, but the body learns to accept so much pain and when tired is overcome and will eventually make you sleep all be it for a short while, but pain is more bearable if you can get some sleep.  I am 37.  Love, luck and blessings in your personal quest for peace within. x
Avatar universal

First I was diagnosed in March 2007 with Piriformis Syndrome in my right hip and was referred to a pain specialist. So they started me on cortisone shots (series of 3 every 2 weeks). After my 3rd shot not 2 hours later I was in so much pain in my left leg. I was crying in pain (no one was home), tryed ice and heat, couldn't sleep that night. Ended up taking 4 Mobics.  The next morning I called my pain specialist (left a message), called again and left another message and then the third time I finally got someone. I was not told when I spoke to the nurse that the doctor was unavailable and the one in the office that was couldn't help me. So I went to emergency (drove myself). All they did for me there was give me a shot of Dilaudid and told me my relexes were fine and nothing major was wrong with me. I was sent home with a prescription of Dilaudid. I had to call a co-worker to come pick me up.  This happened on a Thursday and my pain specialist couldn't see me until Monday.  I told him that I wanted a CAT scan, he said that he would order me an x-ray first to see what was going on.  Well, that only told me that I have mild degeneration in the L5-S1 region.  I was given more medication (can't remember what though). Pain was getting worse so i contacted him and told him that I needed a CAT scan or an MRI done.  He ordered me an MRI. After the MRI came back, I was informed that I had an large extruded disc at L4/L5 located in the left lateral recess behind the body of L5. At L5/S1 a tear of the posterior annulis fibrosis is assiciated with a 4 mm diffuse disc bulge, With severe stenosis.I was informed then that I had two choices; epidural injections or surgery. I opted for epidural injections.  After my first injection the following day I was sitting at the computer and had a rush of pain go up my neck and into my left shoulder. I called the doctor on Monday and he ordered xrays.  Which informed me that I have Mild Endplate spurring at C5-6.  I had my final of 3 injections on Wednesday. I still don't feel good.  My left leg still has a numbness feeling, I can't walk/stand/sit for too long. I currently have a temporary handicap placard. The pain is starting to radiated up into my back now as well.  

I am going to go check out spinal decompression this week (have a free consultation certificate).  See what they have to say about what is going on with me.  

Thanks for listening
Avatar universal
I was diagonoised with DDD, a slight herniation, and a slight bulge from my neck down to my tailbone allmost two years ago. My doc started me on epidurals, but then I got pregnant, and while I was pregnant I hurt worse and my pain spread from mostly to my right side to both sides,,so after words I started PT and got more spidurals, 2 on each side twice, but my back hurts worse now. My doc doesnt think I need another MRI to see if theres a bigger herniation or bulge, and he doesnt seem to think that what Im telling him about the epidurals not working, is true. He wants me to see if it my IC or endo that is causing the pain. If I had epidurals, wouldnt that help any pains that I would have in my back to go away? I am very frustrated and now I have to go through all kinds of testing on my bosy to figure out where the pain might be coming from..Any ideas? I have Uro,gastro,back specialist, and endo specialist on my list of check ups//
Avatar universal
I take norco, muscle relaxers,ibuprofen regularly. My docs afraid to change my meds because he keeps telling me I am to young, but I know I have become tolerate of the meds and tehy r not helping the pains. Also.I have been laying in bed on a heating pad for 3 months now, I can hardly do anything because my back hurts so bad..My quality of life is demishing and I feel like no one cares..
Avatar universal
Hi.. i am 27 years old ..i did not know what was wrong with me.. i had falls during work..but did not care much of it.. i only see reddish so i thought medicated oil will do.. however as time passess.. i started to have serious pains..i cant even walk at times.. my legs r numbs..i cant move at all from bed at times.. the pain is like killing me.. i had never felt so much pain and in fear of my life before.. like what you said..a very very sharp knife being stabbed inside my back.. i cant move or crawl either..i was hopeless..n doc told me it cant be cured.. it was on end spine L3,L4 and L5.. 2 discs bulges out more than 1 cm.. and L5 is disc degeneration.. my life totally gone.. i cant do those activities that i want anymore.. i cant dance, cant play squash or even run.. my life..totally living in fear and darkness.. however no one would ever understand my feeling and the pain that i am going through..,.it hurst so much that i cant even lay properly on the bed..i cant sleep at all..n it had been 1 1/2 years..i resigned and did not worKed.. can you imagine an active person turning to be a dead hopeless person? that's what i was thinking.. No one understand except for ppl like us who have this problem.. although my family members had been very supportive, but seeing your family members looking at you helplessly as do not know how to help is a torture.. the medications i am taking is at very high dosage to ease the pain till my whole body got numb, blur..etc ..n the back did actually affected my neck and head.. the pain is connected.. the pain in the head is like cracking and exploding and a sharp knife being stabbed inside.. Why? I kept asking why this life? However i had already accept the fact.. doc told me the operation is only 50/50..and even it success i mag get paralyzed.. so ..i dare nt try but live in pain every seconds, minutes, hours, days...we have to be strong or else.. we will live with no vision in life.. we will end up in depression just like what i was.. so cheer up and be tough.. i told myself not to even cry for now.. Gambate ya!!!!
Avatar universal
im 40 years old and since i was 15 i had DDD and my first herniated disk made me go to the doc. i have to tell any one who thinks they will get better their wrong unless you cant walk dont get any kind of surgery. if you do you might NOT come out walking and may even grow so many adhesions in your spine u have to go back and get another surgery then you will be in just shoot me pain. your LUCKY if your dr gave you pain meds at such a young age. they didnt in my day. they let me suffer .... still they dont want to give me adequate pain relief saying i have my whole life ahead of me which is bull its not life. im not depressed so dont you be either think of it like this no your not like the 80 year old actress on tv but your not the child in pain with disease starving to death withOUT even shoes to wear and you do have a dr so many people dont have the money to go to the doctor. so be happy and live the life you were given. GODSPEED  
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