Approximately 80% of people experience low back pain in their lifetimes. Although not every case of back pain is caused by degenerative disk disease (DDD), this problem does account for many back pain issues. DDD is an abnormal condition affecting the intervertebral disks that cushion each vertebra of the spine. In the lower back or lumbar area, there are five separate vertebrae. They serve to allow the spine to flex, extend, bend, and rotate.
Aging causes intervertebral disks to lose their water content, leading to shrinkage, increased rigidity, and loss of disk height. This decrease in disk space means the vertebrae are closer together, which can hinder specific movements or cause pain with different activities. The nerves become compressed or pinched. Overall, there is less shock absorption, especially with walking, running, or jumping. Additionally, lifting heavy items incorrectly, twisting while lifting, and trauma can all damage the disks.
Another common cause of lower back pain is lumbar spondylolisthesis, the medical term for shifting in the proper vertebral alignment. In other words, one vertebra shifts forward onto the vertebra below it. Trauma can cause spondylolisthesis but so can routine, long-term participation in sports ranging from gymnastics to football.