View Full Version : Does anyone have experience of Degenerative Disk Disease (DDD)?

28th Apr 2014, 21:19

A 60 year old lady in my family has constant neck pain, and following a scan has been diagnosed with 'widespread wear and tear' in the neck, which I'm guessing is the same thing as Degenerative Disk Disease (which is not a disease as far as I'm aware, just degenerated disks).

As far as treatment is concerned she's been offered pain relief pills (which she doesn't want to use for the time being) and has had 'neck squeltching' from a sports physio which I think gave a small amount of temporary relief.

If anyone has experience of this, then any suggestions on how to mitigate / minimise further degeneration / decrease the pain would be gratefully received. (other than the pills, the NHS seems to be shrugging it's shoulders)

(Googling just yields advice on how to stop DDD occuring but not how to deal with it once it's started)

Many thanks,


28th Apr 2014, 23:06
Mr S,

First off, sympathies for the lady in question. I was diagnosed with DDD about 2 1/2 years ago. Mine is L4/L5 and L5/S1. I know we all get it to some degree or other (usually we just put it down to old age induced bad back) but mine manifested in chronic back pain and sciatica / nerve pain. After much pain meds (Coming off Tramadol was almost as bad as the pain) my back issues were finally resolved by an intensive course of physio. Now I can recognise when it is going to get bad and what exercises I need to do to minimise the pain/effects. I also do a series of daily exercises to 'loosen' my back up before getting up each day and throughout the day.

Apparently mine is not advanced enough to warrant a surgical intervention yet but if they bulge much more and start to affect the spinal cord then a discectomy (double) is on the cards. Hopefully that will not be needed.



28th Apr 2014, 23:28
Sympathies with your family member.

Unfortunately, there probably isn't a quick fix to this age related disorder, (medicine 'aint that good) and maybe it's best to turn it around on it's head, and start with how it's affecting your family member, rather than the results of the scan.

The main problem for your family member, seems to be pain. Although I understand your frustrations, (about the pills and lack of inertia by the nhs), relief of pain is paramount. (Usually function improves to when pain is relieved, a bit of a positive cycle, improved function,usually results in less pain). Pills are extremely useful in this respect, but if they fail, there are alternatives which may help. The next step would be the spinal clinic +/- pain clinic.

Beware of snake oil merchants.

Maybe worth posting on M&H to, there are many learned friends there :-)

28th Apr 2014, 23:49
Thank you very much, that's great practical information. I'll be sure to pass it all on. Sorry to hear it got you as well gingernut :(

29th Apr 2014, 07:38
After suffering neck pain for years, I had surgery in South Africa ten years ago ( three days in hospital and a neck collar for a few weeks).
Before then in U.K. ( RAF then NHS) no real help was offered, yet in S.A., in my experience at least , it was a low risk , routine and common operation.
(In my case using slivers of bone skimmed off of the pelvis - the "old" technique)

29th Apr 2014, 08:02
I've suffered from it for a few years, in fact it stopped me flying and has made rowing very difficult, as turning my head around is pretty painful.

The NHS doesn't seem to be able to deal with it. I had a scan a few years ago that identified the problem, but the consultant's view was that a surgical fix would be too risky, because of the likelihood of inadvertent damage to nerves in the neck.

I took masses of NSAIDS for a year or two, but then found they caused stomach problems. Since then I've found ways of coping. The pain is there most of the time, either in my neck or often referred pain in my shoulders and upper arms, together with numbness in my hands from time to time.

Coping with it hasn't been easy, but after much experimenting I've found that sleep posture makes a very big difference. Getting the right pillow (a lot of trial and error - and the orthopaedic ones are a waste of money, IMHO) has helped a lot, as has finding the best angle to rest my neck at night.

In my case things have gradually improved, as bony spurs have developed that are restricting further disc compression (and restricting neck movement a little). Over the past couple of years the pain has eased and I can now get away with just a couple of paracetamol and codeine tablets just before I go to bed (these allow me to get off to sleep).

For me the main issue is that the nerves coming from the C5/C6 junction get pinched, causing morning numbness in my arms (to the extent of what feels like total paralysis a few times on waking - pretty scary). This is inevitably caused by poor sleep posture, and wears off within an hour of waking (although it has meant being unable to even hold a cup of morning tea a few times). It does mean I make a lot more typos now, as I don't seem to be as able to put my fingers exactly where I want them as well as I used too.

Keeping active helps a lot. I had a year or so of not doing much and things got a lot worse, the last couple of years I've been physically active most days and things have got a fair bit more tolerable. Overall I'd say it's something you adapt to and learn to cope with, and it does seem to gradually get less severe with time. I've read that the spine compensates for disc degeneration by growing extra little bony spurs, and this does seem to be the case for me, as they showed up on my last scan. One snag with being CAT scanned (at least for me) is that the posture in the scanner results in total arm paralysis - I have to be helped out of the thing and can't get dressed myself afterwards. This passes, it's just the way they prop and strap your head to get things at the right angle, I think.

29th Apr 2014, 10:36
I've heard of sufferers examining their diet to minimise inflammation to the system, an 'anti-inflammatory diet'. It has been poo poo'd for years but seems to be gathering a more mainstream acceptance. Also Pilates and Yoga in moderation and under the guidance of a professional can also release tensions (and cash!) thus reducing the pressure on the joints.