I've read that degenerative disc disease is a misnomer in that it really isn't the disks degenerating:
Back pain is one of the most frustrating chronic diseases. Degenerative disk disease is a back disorder that occurs as part of the aging process. It is usually caused by osteoarthritis of the spine, which irritates the vertebrae of the spine with excessive use. When the vertebrae become inflamed due to overuse, they work to heal themselves and leave calcium deposits and bone spurs as side effects. The pain and stiffness that result from this imperfect healing process are known as degenerative disk disease.
Degenerative disk disease is a general classification including herniated or ruptured disk, prolapsed intervertebral disk, and others.
I'm "lucky" in that I only have it in my neck. I call it "THE CLAW" because it feels like one of those metal claw-like things used for gardening has hold of my neck. The pain is normally triggered when my TMJ kicks in, when I'm tense and stressed. Yoga helps a lot. Occasionally I use anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers. It's a horrible feeling.