Disc degeneration is actually a natural part of aging, and over time all people will exhibit changes in their discs consistent with a greater or lesser degree of degeneration. However, not everyone will develop symptoms.
Spinal discs are soft, compressible discs that separate the interlocking bones (vertebrae) that make up the spine. The discs act as shock absorbers for the spine, allowing it to flex, bend, and twist. Degenerative disc disease can take place throughout the spine, but it most often occurs in the discs in the lower back (lumbar region) and the neck (cervical region).
Changes in your discs can result in back or neck pain due to the break-down of tissue (osteoarthritis) that protects and cushions joints, abnormal bulge (herniated disc) and narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis).
The most common surgical procedures for degenerative disk disease are decompression which involves removal of bone or disk material from around a compressed nerve root to relieve pinching of the nerves and provide more room for their recovery. This procedure is performed through laminectomy and diskectomy. The second, spinal fusion, involves using a bone graft to fuse one or more vertebrae and stop motion at a painful vertebral segment. This, in turn, should stop or decrease the pain generated from the joint.