Degenerative Disc Disease

The Link Between Degenerative Disc Disease and Sciatica


Your spine has many invertebrate discs. Over time, these discs suffer from wear and tear that cause them to break down. Disc degeneration is simply a natural part of aging. The discs in your spine are made up of tissues and cartilage that simply loses strength from a combination of regular use and a body that is less equipped to support cartilage nutrition.

While degenerative disc disease may be common, it is not without its drawbacks.

Some of the symptoms of degenerative disc disease include:

  • Light, generalized lower back pain.

  • Occasional flaring of back pain.

  • More comfort while moving than while sitting still.

For many, degenerative disc disease is a mild condition that is unlikely to impact your daily life. It’s not impossible to experience no symptoms at all. Despite the term “disease” in its name, it is nothing more than the medical term for when your discs start to age over time. Yet even though many people with degenerative disc disease experience few to no symptoms, some experience something that feels much more severe: Sciatica.

How Can Degenerative Disc Disease Cause Sciatica?

Sciatica is a set of symptoms that often occur when something is pressing against one of your sciatic nerves. As the discs degenerate, the spine starts to become weaker, which in turn irritates the nerves. When the nerves are irritated, especially in your lower back, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Chronic Pain

  • Weakness

  • Numbness

  • Tingling

  • Weakness in the Legs

You may also experience difficulty moving your legs, and that difficulty may travel all the way down to your feet. The pain also tends to shoot down the leg, and many sufferers only experience these symptoms (or the majority of these symptoms) on one side of their body. Degenerative disc disease may also affect the neck, though the symptoms are then more likely to manifest in the arms.

In rare, and often more dangerous cases, sciatica may also cause incontinence. It is highly recommended that you see a doctor if you are struggling to hold your bladder or bowels.

The Natural Aging Process

Although there are ways to reduce the effect that degenerative disc disease has on the sciatic nerve, it is not currently possible to fully prevent the degeneration. Degenerative disc disease is simply a natural part of aging, so prevention methods simply include staying healthy and exercising. You may not be able to completely prevent disc degeneration, but focusing on your health (including the health of your joints and cartilage) should make them less prone to significant degeneration.


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