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Degeneration of the intervertebral disc

Jill PG Urban1* and Sally Roberts2

Author affiliations

1 University Laboratory of Physiology, Oxford University, Oxford, UK

2 Centre for Spinal Studies, Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, Oswestry, Shropshire, and Keele University, Keele, UK

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Citation and License

Arthritis Res Ther 2003, 5:120-130  doi:10.1186/ar629

Published: 11 March 2003


The intervertebral disc is a cartilaginous structure that resembles articular cartilage in its biochemistry, but morphologically it is clearly different. It shows degenerative and ageing changes earlier than does any other connective tissue in the body. It is believed to be important clinically because there is an association of disc degeneration with back pain. Current treatments are predominantly conservative or, less commonly, surgical; in many cases there is no clear diagnosis and therapy is considered inadequate. New developments, such as genetic and biological approaches, may allow better diagnosis and treatments in the future.

back pain; epidemiology; genetics