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Understanding Mild Degenerative Disc Disease: What Stage Are You In?

At Salish Integrated Medical in Bellingham, Washington, we often encounter patients who are suffering from back and neck pain. One of the common causes of these discomforts is Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD). This condition can be quite debilitating, affecting the quality of life and daily activities. But what exactly is mild degenerative disc disease? How is it diagnosed? And most importantly, what stage might you be in? Let’s delve into these questions.


What is Mild Degenerative Disc Disease?


Degenerative Disc Disease refers to the natural wear and tear of the spinal discs as we age. These discs act as shock absorbers between our vertebrae and facilitate bending and twisting movements. Over time, they can lose their flexibility, elasticity, and shock-absorbing characteristics leading to DDD.


Mild degenerative disc disease is the initial stage of this condition where changes in the discs are just beginning to occur. The symptoms may not be severe at this point but understanding them early can help manage the disease effectively.


What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?


The primary cause of DDD is aging. As we grow older, our spinal discs begin to lose their water content making them less flexible and more prone to damage. Other factors like obesity, smoking, physical activity level, and genetics also play a role in accelerating this process.


How is Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosed?


At Salish Integrated Medical, our team uses a combination of methods to diagnose DDD. It starts with a detailed discussion about your medical history followed by a physical examination focusing on flexibility, range of motion, and signs of pain or discomfort.


Imaging tests like X-rays or MRI scans are often used for a more definitive diagnosis. These tests provide detailed images of your spine allowing us to identify any changes in your spinal discs that might indicate DDD.


What are the Symptoms of Mild Disc Degeneration?


In its early stages, DDD may not present any symptoms. However, as the condition progresses, you might start experiencing mild to moderate discomfort in your lower back or neck. This pain can worsen while sitting, bending, lifting or twisting and may improve when you change positions or walk.


Other symptoms may include numbness or tingling in your limbs and difficulty walking due to weakened leg muscles. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is crucial to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis.


What are the Stages of Degenerative Disc Disease?


DDD progresses through three stages:


  1. Early Stage: This is where mild degenerative disc disease falls. The disc loses water content and starts to weaken but the height remains normal. There might be occasional back or neck pain.


  1. Intermediate Stage: The disc continues to degenerate and collapse causing instability in the spine. Pain becomes more frequent and severe.


  1. Advanced Stage: The disc completely collapses and bone spurs form leading to chronic pain and limited mobility.




Degenerative Disc Disease is a common cause of back and neck pain especially among older adults. While it is part of the natural aging process, understanding its stages can help manage its progression effectively.


At Salish Integrated Medical in Bellingham Washington, we are committed to helping our patients understand their conditions better for effective management and treatment. If you suspect that you might have mild degenerative disc disease or if you’re experiencing persistent back or neck pain, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a comprehensive diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.



(360) 200-1650

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