Cervical Degenerative Disk Disease

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This content has been reviewed and approved by Kathy Doubleday DPT, OCS.

Between each of the vertebrae that make up the spine there is a flexible disc of cartilage that cushions and adds flexibility to the connected bones. With age, fluid and protein changes in the body’s cartilage may make vertebral discs less flexible. This can make the spine less stable and more prone to disk herniation. This is seen on x-ray as a loss of disc height or a “squashed appearance” between the vertebrae. Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common diagnosis related to serious neck and back pain.

Onset of degenerative disc disease typically occurs after 35 years of age. Previous injury or exposure to repetitive tasks are contributing factors. Family history, lifestyle, age, activities, and trauma are all considerations.

  • Back Pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Hunched appearance
  • Weakness and numbness in arms and legs
  • Severity determines the treatment
  • Assess and monitor neurological status
  • Work on improving stiffness in spine
  • Improve flexibility in surrounding areas such as the hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine
  • Teach postural alignment and modifications of activity to decrease spine stress
  • In the case of a bulging disc, surgery may be recommended when symptoms don’t respond to physical therapy

Printable Cervical Degenerative Disk Disease Exercises (pdf)

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