Can a Degenerative Disc Ever Heal? A Comprehensive Look

Degenerative discs are a common cause of back pain for many people. The condition occurs when the spinal discs, which cushion the bones in the spine, break down and cause discomfort. While it is a common ailment, many people wonder if their degenerative disc can ever fully heal. In this article, we will explore the causes of degenerative discs, treatment options, and whether or not a degenerative disc can ever heal entirely.

What Are Degenerative Discs?

Degenerative discs are discs located between the vertebrae of the spine that act as cushions to prevent the bones from rubbing against each other. These discs are made up of soft, gel-like material and a tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosus. As we age, the discs naturally weaken and break down, leading to degenerative disc disease.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

Several factors contribute to the onset of degenerative disc disease. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Aging: As we age, the discs in our spine naturally wear down and become less resilient.
  • Genetics: Some individuals are more predisposed to degenerative disc disease based on their genetics and family history.
  • Injury: Trauma to the spine can cause damage to the discs, leading to degeneration over time.
  • Obesity: The additional weight adds pressure to the spine, contributing to the breakdown of the discs.

How Is Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosed?

Diagnosing degenerative disc disease typically involves a physical exam, imaging tests, and a review of symptoms. During the exam, the doctor will ask questions about the patient’s medical history and symptoms. They may also perform tests to evaluate the strength, sensation, and reflexes in the affected area.

Imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans, can help identify the location and extent of the degenerative disc disease. Doctors may also use discography to evaluate whether the disc is the source of the patient’s pain.

What Are the Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease?

Treatment for degenerative disc disease depends on the severity of the condition and the symptoms experienced. Here are some common treatment options:


Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen may help relieve pain and swelling associated with degenerative disc disease. Prescription drugs such as opioids may be necessary in some cases, but should be used with caution and only under a doctor’s supervision.


Physical therapy and stretching exercises may help improve mobility and relieve pain. Massage therapy and chiropractic treatments may also provide pain relief and improve spine function.


Corticosteroid injections can provide short-term pain relief by reducing inflammation in the affected area. Other injections may help regenerate damaged tissue.


Surgery is typically considered a last resort for degenerative disc disease. Options may include spinal fusion, disc replacement, or other procedures.

Can a Degenerative Disc Ever Heal?

While it is true that the spinal discs cannot regenerate entirely, they can theoretically heal to a degree. Treatments like those listed above can help minimize the symptoms caused by degenerative disc disease, allowing the individual to return to regular activities. In some cases, the body can even form new tissue around the damaged disc, improving the cushioning and mobility of the affected area.

While complete healing of a degenerative disc is rare, it’s essential to focus on managing symptoms and preventing the condition from worsening. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, proper posture, and regular exercise can help maintain healthy spinal discs and prevent further degeneration.


Degenerative disc disease is a common condition that affects the spine of many adults. While it can lead to significant discomfort and reduced mobility, treatments ranging from medication to surgery can help alleviate symptoms and improve spinal function. Although the discs themselves may never entirely regenerate, the body’s natural healing processes can help control the condition and prevent it from worsening.


  • Can degenerative discs cause nerve damage?
  • Yes, when the tissues in the disc breakdown or bulge, they can press on the nerves in the spine and cause painful symptoms.

  • Is it necessary to get surgery for degenerative disc disease?
  • No, surgery is generally considered a last resort for treating degenerative disc disease. Many patients find relief with medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.

  • Can weight loss help alleviate symptoms of degenerative disc disease?
  • Yes, losing weight can help reduce the pressure on the spine, which can contribute to healthier spinal discs and less pain.


  • Ropper, A. H., & Samuels, M. A. (2009). Adams and Victor’s Principles of Neurology. McGraw-Hill Medical.
  • Malanga, G. A., & Nadler, S. F. (2004). Musculoskeletal physical examination: an evidence-based approach. Elsevier Health Sciences.
  • Grogan, J., & Suri, P. (2015). Treatment options for degenerative disc disease: current therapies and future directions. Current physical medicine and rehabilitation reports, 3(4), 247-255.

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