Several of you have been asking about the difference between degenerative disc disease and a herniated disc.
One of the characteristics is the shape of the disc. In degenerative disc disease we think of this as a long-term condition where the cushioning material, meaning the water and the gel in the disc wears out over time it dries out. You do not have as much cushion between the bones of your spine, that can make it hard to move, that can be a cause of long-term low back pain.
With a herniated disc this can be more of a short-term problem that often shows up earlier in life. Here part of the disc material even though there is still a lot of water and gel in it for cushioning your spine has actually bulged out maybe for a wrong movement reaching an injury or just natural wear and tear and that bulging material is now pushing against this nerve. So here the problem is that the material is still there it is just bulging in a place where it shouldn’t, causing you pain. You can see there is kind of a spectrum a herniated disc is fairly severe a bulging disk is less severe but it’s a continuum or kind of a spectrum of the same condition where the disc material is bulging out where it shouldn’t be.
These can cause different types of pain.
Degeneration or wear and tear arthritis of the disc often show up as mainly low back pain. You sometimes might have some leg pain or pain traveling down your leg like sciatica. With a herniated disc we more commonly see back and leg pain because, the material is bulging herniated out pushing on one of the nerves.
To summarize degenerative disc disease takes time the disc is just wearing out, losing the water and gel components that support your back overtime. Herniated disc is where the content is still there it is not drying out it just bulging and causing sometimes a different type of pain.