A normal, healthy disc cartilage primarily consists of water and protein, giving the disc a “white” appearance. With aging, however, much of the water in the cartilage is lost, causing the disc to become dehydrated or desiccated and giving it a “black” appearance. Although disc degeneration is to be expected in the normal course of aging, it can be exacerbated by injury and even smoking, which decreases circulation. Symptoms of degenerative disc disease include pain, numbness, burning and tingling in the extremities and changes in bowel or bladder function. Conservative treatments can include aquatherapy (exercise in water), physical therapy, low-impact exercises, chiropractic manipulations, and anti-inflammatory medications. Surgery is also a consideration, depending on the severity of the degeneration; and minimally invasive procedures which only entail a small incision are now available.