If you are like most people, the long-term effects of degenerative disc disease will be no symptoms. 

Most people have DDD and don’t even know it. 

If you are one of the unlucky ones, you may develop arthritic type pain or nerve pain. 

If you are curious about the difference between radiographic arthritis and symptomatic arthritis, you’ll want to read the article I’ve provided in that link.

What are the possible long-term effects of degenerative disc disease?

Most commonly, no symptoms is the most prevalent long-term outcome. 

For others, stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and arthritis-type pain become more prevalent. 

This can result in nerve compression leading to pain, weakness, numbness and tingling, stiffness, and overall decreased mobility. 

Often times physical therapy and other non-surgical approaches can be quite effective in helping you manage your symptoms. 

In fact, when physical therapy is compared to lumbar spinal stenosis surgery, the outcome is the same after 5 years; and no complications from physical therapy. There was a 10-24% complication rate with the surgery.

When is surgery appropriate for DDD?

scalpel in hand animated for surgery

If you are experiencing worsening and severe weakness, numbness, tingling, and bowel and bladder changes that are not responding to a nonsurgical approach, then you may want to consider speaking with your surgeon. 

Surgery is a tool to be utilized in the right scenario. 

What is the prognosis for degenerative disc disease?

The prognosis is excellent for most individuals. 

As discussed above, most people will have no symptoms, and if you do, in many cases these can be treated and improved without surgery or injections. 

At What Age Does Degenerative Disc Disease Begin?

Our bodies are constantly undergoing the birth and death of new cells. This is how we grow, and eventually, age. 

The studies that I have looked at show a 37% prevalence of disc degeneration in individuals at age 20-30. These were all asymptomatic individuals (no symptoms).

Based on this, it’s likely that even some teenagers will have the beginnings of DDD. 

This is just a normal part of the aging process and something that will occur over our lifetime just like getting gray hair. 

How can I strengthen my lower back with degenerative disc disease?

There are a bunch of great strength training exercises that you can do to improve your overall health and well-being if you have DDD. These also apply to anyone just trying to get stronger and healthier. 

I wrote an article and shared 8+ videos on the best exercise treatment program for degenerative disc disease. Please check it out!