Skip to main content
UC Davis Spine Center

UC Davis Spine Center

Degenerative spine conditions

What are degenerative spine conditions?

Degenerative spine conditions involve the gradual loss of normal structure and function of the spine over time. They are usually caused by aging, but may also be the result of tumors, infections or arthritis. Pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots caused by degeneration can be caused by:

What are the symptoms of degenerative spine conditions?

In general, symptoms of a degenerating spine include:

  • Spinal deformity
  • Limited motion
  • Pain
    • Sharp or chronic
    • With movement or at rest
  • Nerve injuries
    • Weakness
    • Sensory loss
    • Bladder and bowel function problems
    • Sexual dysfunction

(See herniated discs and spinal stenosis for more details on symptoms.)

How are degenerative spine conditions diagnosed?

Diagnosis of degenerative spine conditions begins with an X-ray study of the backbones. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to view discs, nerves and the spinal canal space. Computed tomography (CT) may be used to resolve any inconsistencies between the MRI and the patient's symptoms. Sometimes disc studies, also known as discograms, may be ordered to determine if a patient's pain is being caused by a damaged spinal disc.

How are degenerative spine conditions treated?

Treatment of a degenerating spine depends on the type and severity of the condition. In most cases, non-surgical treatment is all that is required. These treatments may include exercise to increase flexibility and muscle strength, braces or medication. Your doctor may also prescribe minimally invasive delivery of pain medication and/or steroids via epidural injection. The spine center specialists in the Pain Intervention Clinic will provide the specialized care needed to relieve the pain of spinal conditions. Surgery may be required in more severe cases involving herniated discs or spinal stenosis.