Lumbar degenerative disc disease is a condition our office deals all the time. Most of our workers compensation clients with low back disability have some degree of lumbar degenerative disc disease or DDD. This is particularly true with our construction trades and factory worker injured workers who are involved in physical labor with lifting, bending, twisting and turning at the waist. Insurance company doctors, called IME doctors, routinely claim that DDD is pre-existing and has nothing to do with the job duties. Depending on the nature of the work and length of employment doing physical jobs, the treating physician and surgeon opinions tying the DDD to the job are more credible.

The intervertebral discs in the lower spine are commonly blamed for low back pain. Yet low back pain has many possible causes, and doctors aren’t always certain why symptoms occur.

During an office visit for low back pain, the spine specialist may describe how changes in the discs can lead to back pain. When talking about these changes, the doctor may use the terms degeneration or degenerative disc disease. Although the parts of the spine do change with time and in some sense degenerate, this does not mean the spine is deteriorating and that one is headed for future pain and problems. These terms are simply a starting point for describing what occurs in the spine over time, and how the changes may explain the symptoms people feel.


The human spine is made up of 24 vertebrae stacked on top of one another to form the spinal column. The lower back is known as the lumbar spine.

An intervertebral disc sits between each pair of vertebrae. The intervertebral disc is made of connective tissue. Most connective tissue is made of fibers of a material called collagen. These fibers help the disc withstand tension and pressure.

The disc normally works like a shock absorber. It protects the spine against the daily pull of gravity. It also protects the spine during strenuous activities that put strong force on the spine, such as jumping, running, and lifting.

An intervertebral disc consists of the center nucleus, which is spongy providing most of the disc’s ability to absorb shock. It is held in place by the annulus, a series of strong ligament rings surrounding it.

Between the vertebrae of each spinal segment are two facet joints. A facet joint is made of small, bony knobs that line up along the back of the spine forming a joint that connects the two vertebrae allowing freedom of movement as you bend forward and back.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin McCormick Law Office represents workers with degenerative disc disease in neck and low back workers compensation claims.