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Spine and Back Health

Multiple Disc Degeneration

12/15/2008

Question:

Can you end up in a wheelchair from multiple disc degeneration?

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. The short answer is, “no”. The long answer is, people often have multiple degenerated discs in their backs and don’t even know it; however, in some people it leads to significant pain. If this pain is left untreated, and the person doesn’t take the correct steps to minimize any further degeneration of the discs (e.g., stop smoking, lose weight, strengthen core muscles, avoid extremely physically demanding activities, etc.), it can eventually reach a point where the chronic pain saps the person’s physical stamina, they start being less and less active or mobile, and after a long enough period of time they can end up so weak and “de-conditioned” that they end up relying on a wheelchair. This is not the same thing as being paralyzed, and it can be avoided by taking proper care of oneself. I hope this answers your question. Happy holidays.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University