If your lower back hurts, you might wonder if muscle strain or another injury is to blame.\nFor many people, however, low back pain is the result of lumbar disc degeneration, a condition that occurs over time. Although this breakdown of spinal discs is a normal consequence of aging, it can cause pain, discomfort, and other symptoms in some people.\nWhat Is Lumbar Disc Degeneration?\nThe discs of your spine cushion the interlocking vertebrae and act as shock absorbers for your back, allowing it to bend, flex, and twist. These discs are composed of two layers:\n\nA tough, firm outer layer\nA soft, jelly-like core that’s made up largely of water\n\nAs we get older, the inner core cushion loses some of its water content and becomes drier. Consequently, the discs’ outer layers can crack or tear. Eventually, the disc can lose height, which leads to changes in your vertebrae, joints, ligaments, and other soft tissue, a condition known as disc degeneration. When this occurs in your lower back, it’s called lumbar disc degeneration.\nLumbar disc degeneration is common among people over 30 and has been associated with low back pain. However, it is commonly present in asymptomatic individuals as well. Your doctor can help determine if the disc degeneration is a cause of your pain.\nDisc Degeneration Symptoms\nWhen present, it can contribute to symptoms such as:\n\nBack pain that worsens when sitting, bending, lifting, or twisting.\nTenderness or aching in the buttocks, or thighs.\nBack pain that feels better when walking, changing positions, or lying down.\nPeriods of severe pain that gets better after a few days or months.\n\nWhen the degeneration is associated with pressure on a nerve, it can contribute to:\n\nNumbness and tingling into the legs\nWeakness in the legs\n\n\nHow Do You Treat Low Back Pain?\nIf you think you might have lumbar disc degeneration, visit your doctor. He or she will likely perform a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms, previous injury, illness, and physical activities that may be causing pain. Your doctor may test your range of motion in the affected area and nearby areas and look for tender spots, numbness, weakness, tingling, or changes in reflexes.\nIf lumbar disc degeneration has been identified as a contributor to your pain, your doctor will discuss your treatment options.\nHe or she will probably focus on noninvasive approaches to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, such as:\n\nNon-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen, orally or topically\nOther pain relievers such as acetaminophen\nPhysical therapy\nLifestyle modifications\n\nDealing with Chronic Low Back Pain\nAn episode of low back pain doesn’t predict long term, or chronic, back pain. The pain can be improved by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing stress.\nYou may also be advised to minimize movements that aggravate the problem, such as lifting heavy objects or playing sports (such as golf) that involve twisting the back.\nAt the same time, you should try to remain as active as possible. Your physician or physical therapist can suggest exercises that will strengthen the muscles that support your back, relieve pressure on discs, and help alleviate pain associated with lumbar disc degeneration while modifying movements to maintain your overall fitness level and participation in the activities that you enjoy.\nIf you experience severe weakness in your lower extremities, changes in your bowel or bladder functions, unexplained weight loss, or fever with your low back pain, consult your physician immediately.