Is Degenerative Disc Disease the Same As Arthritis?

My doctor’s office called me last week and told me that I had arthritis in my lower back along with degenerative disc disease. I went this morning and picked up a copy of my MRI report from the hospital (a habit I have gotten into since going through disabiilty) and the report says nothing about arthritis. It just says that I have moderately severe degenerative disc disease at L5/S1. So now I am confused. I go to the doctor on Thursday and find out where the arthritis diagnosis came from. Maybe she received more information than what my copy of the report showed.

So my question is….is degenerative disc disease and arthritis the same thing? Is it arthritis that causes degenerative disc disease or does DDD cause arthritis? I have done some online searches on degenerative disc disease and from what I understand there seems to be a connection but I’m not completely sure. Let me know if you have any idea by commenting.

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Comments

  1. My understanding is they are different, but frequently occur together because they have the same causes. Basically it is wear and tear damaging the spine, which includes the vertebrae and the disks in between them. I have never seen a case of degenerative disk disease, without arthritic changes in the vertebrae.

  2. Thanks, Ed! :)

  3. I have the same thing wrong with me.My doctors say there is nothing they can do that surgery is way too risky.So i have to live with the pain.I can’t work and i can hardley be up on my feet.They have me on 800mgs of GABAPENTIN and SKELAXIN.The GABAPENTIN i have too take 4 times a day,while SKELAXIN 3 TIMES A DAY.

  4. Gabapentin 800mg i took caused me to have seizers 2 years ago . now i have two types of seizures along with fibromyolgia,
    degenerative disk disease . chronic pain from fibromyolgia i was put on gabapentin also depression med. watch out ask questions look for a fibromyolgia docor not a pine and sports doc.

  5. Just stopped by, nice blog!

  6. My Dr. has me on 50,000 IU of vitamin D for 12 weeks. Then
    2000,morning and 2000 night of vit D3 there after . I have
    DDD and I am 62. My vit D level was down to 14. You might
    look into this…it may help

  7. Interesting you mention that carleen. I was also prescribed 50,000 IU of vitamin D, several times in fact, but I always have these terrible side effects from it, which nobody seems to be able to figure out. And now I get the results from my MRI back and apparently I have degenerative disc disease and arthritis. I’m only 27 with no past back injuries.

  8. I have fibromylgia I am taking 600 mg 3times a day along with neubetome 3 times a day. I also have I/C. I was just told by my doctor that I have degenerative disc disease with arthritis. It is getting to the point that I am missing work.
    My feet and legs and back hurt wheither I am on them or not. I can’t sleep at night bc I hurt so bad. Can anybody relate to this and give me some advice. Tks.

  9. greenapple5000 says:

    I’m 23, I have ddd & arthritis. Soma 350mg works pretty well for the spasms, but I can’t seem to calm the “grinding” feeling in my L-5,S-1. I took Vicodin 5/500mg since that is more for arthritis/bone pain, and even some Ibuprofen 400mg. My back went out a week ago and it is going out right now. It hurts so much I started vomiting a bit. Since I can’t get out of bed to go back to the ER, I took an Ondansetron 4 mg followed by a Demerol 50mg. I can feel the tension/grinding feelings in my back but without the “pain” My orthopedic specialist referred me to physical therapy: heat, massage, range of motion, strengthening care, ultrasound as appropriate.

  10. You can have OA in any joint. DDD is just OA. I have it in my knees, feet, and fingers as well as my spine.

  11. The best thing you can do with arthritis is exercise. When you have a flare-up (arthritis is really bad), it is pretty difficult but walk as much as you can. If you do not go to a physical therapist, look up OA exercises on the internet. They have excellent exercises for the spine, knees, feet, fingers, etc.

  12. Diann Meier says:

    I have DDD and MRI findings determine some arthritic changes along with stenosis in L5 – S1. The pain is always there and depend on my heating pad way too much for relief. I take Neurontin (300) twice/day and feel dizzy from the medication…however, it does help the pain. The pain is getting worse and can’t stand or sit for long periods of time. I don’t have leg pain yet. I also wear a back brace most of the day.
    My question is having DDD —is that the same as arthritis?

  13. Just trying to find some relief in my daily activities with DDD, stenosis and arthritis …any recommendations? I take 300 mgs. Neurontin once/day but need to take it more often. I am very limited in standing or sitting very long…thanks

  14. Pinelopi says:

    hi guys. I am 24 years old and was diagnosed with DDD at 22. It started in my L4 and L5 according to my first MRI. I did physical therapy, accupuncture, chiropractor, exercise, cut back my hours at work…basically everything. I just recently had another MRI and it is affecting my S1 now as well. I actually had an appointment with my back doctor yesterday (6.9.10) and am officially on the road to surgery. I’ve been taking (lately) 350mg soma 2 times a day, 10 mg percocet 4 times a day, 800 mg ibubrofen 3 times a day. And i’m sure like most of you, none of these really touch the pain, although the somas help with the spasms. I’ve also off and on taken prednasone for bad inflammation. Also i have had 3 steroid injections which were totally pointless. I’ve thrown out my back MULTIPLE times. i’ve been in constant pain for over 2 years and have tried all the options. I was told yesterday that when i’m done with school (in december) he wants me to do this surgery. (not necesserily “wants” me to..he feels i’m too young and hates to do it but unfortunatly i’ve run out of options…his exact words were “i have no other options”) The reason he feels surgery is necessary is because since my mri in 2008 the L5 has decreased 50% in size(in another 2 years he predicts that the bones will be totally fused and then i’ll have 1/3 chance of it getting better, 1/3 chance of it staying the same and a 1/3 chance of it getting worse) I also have ALOT of inflammation on this particular disc and it’s been that way since june of 2009. ( my left leg and the top of my left foot has now been numb for a year) So the surgery would entail making a 2-3 inch incision and buffing/shaving down the part of the bone that is inflammed to relieve pressure off of the nerves it’s pushing against. 6 weeks recovery time and 85% chance of full recovery. I know this doesn’t sound very serious but to be totally honest i am terrified. I just was wondering if any of you have had this procedure done of it ya’ll have heard anything about it. IF you have any input please email me at curly7685@hotmail.com. I’d love to hear your story and maybe be some kind of support for each other. And maybe you guys have found some forums or support groups that you recommend? thanks guys!

    ps…sorry this is so sparatic…i was just typing as i was remembering stuff

  15. I want to know this also. Is anyone going to answer the question, or is everyone just going to tell us what is wrong with them!!??

  16. I don’t know if this blog still exists, but I’ve just been told the same thing. Was diagnosed with DDD a year ago, given NSAIDS (Aleve) and told to to some type of massage therapy, did the massage therapy and light therapy went off work for two months on disability, and it seemed to work. Just now, the pain started getting worse and back was going out more often (more than a couple times on a daily basis). Went to new dr. and he referred to my DDD as arthritis-threw me for a loop and scared me too. Only 34, and was previously quite healthy (minus the stress from the last job). From what I hear DDD is osteoarthritis, degeneration of the tissue or joints between the vertebrae. Not entirely sure if I’m correct. But I also noticed that people with past fibromyalgia have DDD as well, which I also had fibromyalgia many years ago, and the symptoms seemed to subside. I find that an odd coincidence. My last doc always trying to diagnose me with depression, and that seems interesting too. I’m not depressed, just maybe a little emotional from living with pain maybe. Doctors don’t have all the answers, they can only help with the arsenal of tools they do have. Anyway, it’s just weird that such young people have such a chronic illness. Anyone have chronic stress in their lives? Just asking, because I have and am wondering if that is one of the causes. My old doc said stress causes DDD, but then current one says “arthritis” is not caused by stress.
    \

  17. I was told I have Degenerative disease in the spine. I was also told that you cannot get osteoArthritis in your spine so it is Degenerative Disc Disease. But my discs themselves are fine. My spine is compressing fast like crushing a soda can. Discs are herniated or Bulging in the Lumbar, thorasic and the Cervical. My Spine is shifting and the Vertabrae are poking and resting and flattening the spinal chord in multiple places sending electrical signals throughout my body causing it to continuously shake, tremble, twich and spasm. Some discs are impinging nerves and nerve roots in the Cervical area causing extreme pain in my arms and hands which become a useless claw by the end of the day. So my question is, since all my Drs tell me something different, Is this DDD, Degenerative OsteoArthritis, Degenerative Nerve Disease, or What? I also have Lupus and fibromyalgia which my Rheumatoligist tells me is a completely different issue unconnected to the back issues. Is this true?

  18. ruth deyton says:

    I HAVE DEGENERATIVE ARTHRITIS AND RECENTLY HAD AN MRI. IT SHOWED I HAD ARTHRITIS IN MY BACK. I WAS HAVINY EXTREME PAIN DOWN MY LEFT LEG. I HAD AN EPIDURAL. THE PAIN WENT AWAY EXCEPT FOR 1 NERVE WHICH CONTINUED DOWN MY LEG. IT HAS BEEN 5 MONTHS AND THE PAIN IS STARTING TO COME BACK. THEY TOLD ME I COULD HAVE ANOTHER EPIDURAL. IT IS DISHEARTENING BUT IT COULD BE A LOT WORSE.

  19. For all the folks with unrelenting back pain (like mine): If the prescriptions don’t work, consider medical marijuana if it’s legal in your state. That’s the only thing that really reduces my pain from degenerative discs. It’s also the only thing that helps me into the next day.

    Not starting a debate here, just letting you know it’s a REAL alternative to live killing pills. Wishing you the best!

  20. How do you handle the pain? I’m at the end of my rope1!!!!

  21. What are you doing for the pain!!!!!

  22. I was diagnosed with DDD, herniated discs, and cervical spondylosis back in 2001.. unable to operate, so I “live” with it.. if you call it that. They wanted me on opiates.. codeine and such. I’ve been reading that many sufferers are also on opiates.. blah. Personally I’ve been taking “cannacaps” instead.. 1/10th of a gram of cannabis, prepared and activated by heating in coconut oil.. then encapsulated. 1-2 caplets every few hours and the pain is virtually gone. Ingesting cannabis is different.. you don’t get “high”, but it is a very effective muscle relaxant. But best of all.. it’s NOT addictive ;).

    Google “cannacaps” and you can find how to make at home, or visit your local cannabis compassion club.. they’ll more than likely already have them on the menu. Alternatively, you can also make cannabis cookies.. everybody loves cookies. :D

  23. Gabrielle says:

    Hello everyone, I was so glad to find this blog I thought I was the only young person with DDD and arthritis. I’m 24. Although I never had terribly great lifting techniques when I was younger and that hurt me bad I’m sure. Also I wear shoes a lot mostly sneakers. I have done some reading and it seems primitive cultures who don’t wear shoes and have better posture have almost no incidence of these problems. And they still lift heavy things! Too late now. If I could do anything it would be to help people understand that our “precious technology” is killing us. check out the primal diet website. Also there is a lady named Gonkale I believe and she describes how to have good posture and this has helped minimize pain for a lot of people. I can still walk around but I can’t work and I can barely keep the house neat and cook. I’ve only tried physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and a SI joint injection so far. I’m pretty sure its my discs though.

  24. Have a degenerative disc desease ,and in 2004 ,a VA doctor put me on TRAMADOL 50 mg every 8 hours for my severe pain .The pain was so severe I couldn’t sit on a kitchen chair .The med works like a charm,and never a pain in the past 8 years .81 years old

  25. Old thread this, but I’ll leave an answer anyway. The discs between the vertebraes act as shock absorbers (think of it as the suspensions of a car). When the fluid core of the disk dries up and the disk wears down (this is a process that usually progress over several decades … and is a normal part of the aging process), more stress is put on the vertebraes and the facet joints. More stress on the bones makes them more suspect for breakdown of the cartillage and the bonemass itself. This is referred to as arthritis. As a last resort your body will try to stabilize these segments by growing bonespurs that in the end can result in a natural fusion of the problem segments.

    For the people asking for surgery … if any doctor tells you that surgery is too risky, ask for a second opinion. Nobody should live with severe nerve compression and there are several surgical options to relief pain and to increase life quality. That said, most cases of back pain will spontaniously recover without any intervention in a 6-8 week timeframe. If symptoms do not get any better … or get worse … get a MRI of your spine and consult a spine surgeon for your optons.

  26. First off, 800mg of gabapentin is not a very high dose. If it is not working for the nerve pain, then contact your doctor for an increase. You can get seizures from Gabapentin if you hard stop it. If you are going to stop gabapentin, you need to taper down to nothing. Narcotics, only help with pain and there have been studies that show vicodin actually INCREASES the pain. The Tylenol is what helps. Spinal surgery is usually a last resort and you need to be approved as a surgical candidate by the actual surgeon. It can be tricky getting into see them.

    I have had back pain since I have been 24 years, but I live with the pain. I have toradol for when it gets really bad and will get a toradol injection to get the pain back in control. I also use cyclobenzaprine to take after my back spasms and I do my home exercises to help the muscle keep tone. This helps a lot with the pain. Don’t just lay around doing nothing because that is only adding to the source. Laying there you are losing muscle tone and you need that if you are going to deal with the pain.

    There is not an excuse to say, oh my back hurts I can not work. You can always work, but the job may vary. You would not want to be a CNA with this issue. I work 2 fulltime jobs and have 2 small children. Never once have I said I can not do this because of pain, I try to work through it even though sometimes it is unbearable. That is part of life.

  27. ShawnShine says:

    To answer the original question.. no.. DDD is NOT the same as arthritis. Just similar it the way in deteriorates the tissues. The pain is also similar. I have BOTH DDD and arthritis .. and fibromyalgia. Joy! I hope all of you find comfort some how. PEACE!

  28. stephanie says:

    I was told by my Doctor I had arthritis in my neck which was causing my upper back pain, nerve and muscle spasms about a month ago. They prescribed my tramadol and diazapam and it seemed to get better on it’s own for about a week. Then, last week my kneck and upper back pain started up again. The pain just keeps on spreading through my body. I made an appointment for physical therapy and my referral papers said I have a diagnosis cervical DDD. This time they gave me 20 5 mg of vicoden 1 to 2 every six hours and cyclobenzaprine. I ran out of the vicoden and the doctor on call gave me 10 tramadol 1 50 mg tablet every 6 hours last night to relief some of the pain until I see my PC tomorrow. I also suffer from chrone’s disease, chronic Ibs, chronic gastritis and fibromyalgia and migraines. With all these ailments, I take preventative medicine which really does not help my quality of life. I have been dealing with pain from chronic illness for over 5 years now. I am allergice to anti-inflamatories and prednisone, so the only over the counter solution I have is tylenol and it’s not doing much of anything anymore. I try to do my best everyday to overcome these chronic conditions using mind over matter, but I am utterly mentally exhausted and tired of not having a somewhat decent quality of life. Due to these illnesses, I have gained about 80 lbs over the last few years which obviously makes everything worse. I certainly don’t eat enough to have gained all this weight, but I do not exercise on a daily basis. I try to force myself as much as it pains me to keep moving. My doctors office seems very leary about giving out pain medication that I am literally afraid to ask for tramadol to help with this new back problem. Very frustrated…..was looking into starting chair yoga and cutting down on gluten. Just want some kind of help with the pain without feeling like I’m asking for something that is out of the ordinary.

  29. I was diagnosed with arthritis in my whole spine about 10 years ago. It’s gotten progressively worse faster over the past year. I was a professional house painter until I was laid off 2 years ago. I gained 40 lbs in a year. That made it worse since I am only 5’2. Last October I went back to work doing retail, stock and what not. The pain was horrible. I went to the doctor and he put me on slams, lorcets, Xanax and adipex. I had another MRI. I saw the surgeon who said there is no surgery to help me and I would get progressively worse. I also have DDD and scholiosis. I’ve lost 25 lbs on the adipex. Yay! I was told not to exercise until my pain and weight are regulated. I do stretches and some yoga here and there. My insurance won’t pay for physical therapy. I used to be able to go in 2005 and it did help a little. Steroid injections never helped. Traction helped briefly. I’ve been on every pain med except oxys. I won’t take them. I try not to take as much medication as I am prescribed. I don’t want to but most of the time I have no choice because I can’t move without it. I can’t sleep most nights. Hot baths help. All NSAIDs make my stomach cramp or bleed. Neurontin makes me insane. The toradol injections help once in a while but toradol is not meant forlong term use In pill form. My attorney applied for disability for me. Hopefully it will pan out so I will be able to go back to physical therapy. I have had to cut my hours at work due to pain and anxiety. My hands and feet have been going numb for years but now my right hip hurts all the time. My butt goes numb along with the right leg. It’s hard to walk a lot of the time and sometimes I trip because I can’t feel my leg. I’ve done hard labor since I was 15. Sometimes I fall while getting out of bed which sucks! I’m only 41 now. This has been grueling for me! I wear a back brace as well but it does nothing for my neck. I can’t even read for more than 10 minutes without it stiffining and locking up. I hate this! It’s so unfair! My body is falling apart and I feel helpless! Back to the doctors this Monday for more meds so I can function. The lorcets help dull the pain. Tylenol alone does nothing. Somas help with my spasms and Charlie horses. Xanax helps me sleep and helps with anxiety. I also have psoriasis and it only flares up when I get anxiety. I know there is psoriatic arthritis as well but my psoriasis is only on my scalp and face. I see a psychologist as well to deal with my anxiety and to make sure I am ok with all the narcotics I am on. It’s not fun but it is what it is. I just keep pushing on and doing the best that I can.

    • Julz, congrats on the weight loss.

      You have a lot of challenges, but a great attitude. Seeing a psychologist is important to help with the anxiety and learn some coping strategies.

      Doing the best that we can is all we can hope to do. Good luck! :)

  30. crystal says:

    hi i was told a year ago that my m.r.i shown that i have minor disc degeneratoin with a reduction in disc height at L4-5 and L5-S1 and moderate facet joint hypertrophy within the lumbar spine. since this m.r.i my back pain as got worst and now how hip pain and have a limp. dose anyone no what this means as my doctor just keeps giving me pain killers HELP!!!! please

  31. Maria K says:

    To Crystal
    The disk degeneration causes a lot of pain unfortunately progressively. There are multiple nerves going through the spaces in spine, so once the revenue is being pinched it affects the muscle it inervates. In your case a glut muscle. Everybody is defend but for me alternating ice and heat was really helpful pain-wise. 10 min ice pack-10 min heat pad.
    Good luck!

  32. Maria K says:

    To Crystal
    The disk degeneration causes a lot of pain unfortunately progressively. There are multiple nerves going through the spaces in spine, so once the nerve is being pinched it affects the muscle it inervates. In your case a glut muscle. Everybody is defend but for me alternating ice and heat was really helpful pain-wise. 10 min ice pack-10 min heat pad.
    Good luck!

    • Thank you. So is it arthritis ? I have just had xray on my hip and knee as im in so much pain but they have come back fine. Im on pain patch paracetamol and arthritis tablets not sure y im on arthritis tablets tho. I also have hypermobility syndrome and the leg that is in loads of pain is 1cm shorter then other one. The pain causes me to limp. confused.com lol to why im in so much pain in my leg but something is only showing up on my spine

  33. Well I am confused. I “threw my back out” ending up in emerg. X-ray from that shows “arthritis” in my back. Dr also mentioned T11 and T12. Ended up going for a CT scan. I have shooting pain down the front of my right thigh. I can feel crunching or grinding in my back while sitting or standing or sneezing for that matter. I can live with the crunching, but the sharp shooting pain down my thigh is debilitating. So bad I have to rub it to try and relieve some pain. Pain is worst at night trying to sleep, or while driving. I am currently unemployed, and kinda worried about looking for a job as I am in no shape to try and carry out my trained profession of the last 22 yrs. I would live to know if I’m going to be a candidate for disability while I try and get my life back, as I was just treated for endometriosis that was suppose to give me pain relief. But now I’m thinking that was a whole nother situation. I’m tired of being in pain. I’m also being treated for depression, since my fathe died, I lost my job, an had a house fire, all with I the last year. I’m still. It back in my home. My dr also mentioned surgery for weight loss. I’m scared to think I will never eat a good meal, or have an quality of life back

    Any thoughts as to what I need to be focussing on????

  34. I have DDD and osteoarthritis in my lumber Thoracic Spine. I also take number of medicines and epidural shots whenever I am in shooting pain. I know these pain affects our quality of life and put us in depression or stressful mode. Now I am going to see spinal ortho-doctor to discuss about surgery with the focus of minimum invasive one and I am also going to look into Laser Spine surgery. I read all of the comments above and I would emphasize to all of you to consider meditation and breathing exercise (pranayama) that is very helpful to keep our mind, attitude and stress in control. I was very stressful, pessimistic and negative because of this on-going chronic pain. Now my mind is calmer and stable and ready to deal with every day of challenges because of regular breathing exercise and meditation. At least you will experience peace of mind.

  35. I started having low back pain about 1.5 years ago,im 29yrs old, went to a doc about a year ago, had an xray, he told me I had disc space narrowing, which whenever i search online it always comes back as DDD…I’ve never went back to the doc after that, as all they do is assign u to PT or prescribe meds…instead I research alternative therapies myself…currently I take systemic enzymes & fish oils, which are NATURAL anti inflammatories which casue NO side effects at all …I’m about to try Tumeric, which is supposedly also a very very good natural inflammatory…the pain meds, they all just MASK the pain and I refuse to take them…oh and for the physical therapy part…these days with the internet, no need to be paying for PT, i do PT & yoga at home with the help of awesome youtube videos…once again, research NATURAL ANTI INFLAMMATORIES for yourself…get off those addictive meds, which only help the docs and big pharma companies get rich ….good luck to all of you

  36. Mike i totally agree with you about the masking of symptoms. But has the natural antinflammtories helped at all. My doc just told me I have arthritis in my L5 S1.
    I figured I continue with the stretching path of healing before I go in for his recommended shot into my lower back, which I’m sure will just mask the pain for a few days.

  37. Bonnie Harris says:

    I went to a SPE. Dr. and he told me that I had the same things wrong with me. Then what he told me was like a slap in the face. He said that I was to much over weight for him to help me. My back hurts the worst after I have been in bed about five hours and get up then it takes about two hours for the pain to let up enough for me to walk.( this also happens during the day). I can only walk up to 25 feet before I have to sit down to relieve the pain. I also have a pacemaker and my heart Dr. wants me to walk more to help me lose the weight. I WANT TO WALK but the pain and the “catches” hurt so bad. I take goody powders for the pain but they are hurting my stomach. I was told by this Dr. that smoking “pot” would help, so I tried it and “yes” it helped a lot. I know a lot of you thinks that it is wrong but it helps and I am not drugged to the point of sleep or stupidness. But I still need some kind of help with this pain.

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