What is Intervertebral Disc Degeneration, and What Causes It?

Michael A. Adams, PhD; Peter J. Roughley, PhD


Spine. 2006;31(18):2151-2161. 

In This Article


The process of disc degeneration should be defined as an aberrant, cell-mediated response to progressive structural failure. Definitions of a degenerated disc and early degenerative changes should also refer to structural failure, whereas degenerative disc disease should apply to a degenerated disc, which is also painful. The underlying cause of disc degeneration is tissue weakening occurring primarily from genetic inheritance, aging, nutritional compromise, and loading history. The precipitating cause is structural disruption occurring from injury or fatigue failure.


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