The Doctor Says I have “Disc Degeneration”!  Now What?

Person holding their lower back whilst in pain

Believe it or not, this is a very common finding on X-rays, CT scans and MRI’s.  The term “degenerative disc disease” sounds terribly painful and frightening!  Some patients assume they are doomed to have pain for the rest of their lives upon hearing this diagnosis.

Studies have shown that lumbar disc degeneration is present in 40% of individuals under the age of 30 and 90% aged 50-55.  This does not mean that 40% and 90% have low back pain; it simply means that lumbar disc degeneration is a normal finding on medical imaging (Cheung et al., 2009).

Another study revealed 47% of individuals with no history of back pain had evidence of disc degeneration on their MRI (Matsumoto et al., 2010).

If you have gone to your Doctor with complaints of low back pain and your X-ray or MRI reveals a “degenerative disc”…. do not panic!  As mentioned above, these findings do not necessarily mean you will have back pain forever, or that it will get worse over time.

Ok, so what do I do now?

Physiotherapists are trained to assess the body as a whole to determine what is causing the pain.  Some may say the cause is the “degenerative disc”….. but why do some with degenerative discs have no pain at all?  Also, if the disc takes time to “degenerate” then why do people all of a sudden wake up with acute low back pain?


Physiotherapists at Strive Physio assess spinal alignment and posture, nerve function, muscle and fascia tightness, as well as muscle weakness or imbalance.  A thorough assessment can determine what factors are most likely causing the pain.  A treatment plan will incorporate a variety of hands-on techniques as well as provide you with specific therapeutic exercises to assist your recovery.

Your Strive physiotherapist can work with you to help your spine feel strong and healthy again.

Book to see Strive Physio by calling 07 4978 7868 or drop in to Gladstone GP Superclinic reception.


Cheung, K., Karppinen, J., Chan, D., Ho, D., Song, Y., Sham, P., Cheah, K., Leong, J. and Luk, K. (2009). Prevalence and Pattern of Lumbar Magnetic Resonance Imaging Changes in a Population Study of One Thousand Forty-Three Individuals. Spine, 34(9), pp.934-940.   

Matsumoto, M., Okada, E., Ichihara, D., Watanabe, K., Chiba, K., Toyama, Y., Fujiwara, H., Momoshima, S., Nishiwaki, Y., Hashimoto, T. and Takahata, T. (2010). Age-Related Changes of Thoracic and Cervical Intervertebral Discs in Asymptomatic Subjects. Spine, p.1.

Strive Physio