Degenerative Disc Disease – Great Facts and Treatments
For a patient who is new to , common questions often include:
- If I have pain from degenerative disc disease in my thirties, how much worse will it become with age?
- Will the degenerative disc disease become a crippling condition? Will I end up in a wheelchair?
- Should I restrict my activities? Can I still play sports?
- Will the disease spread to other parts of the spine?
- Will the degenerated disc(s) cause any permanent damage?
- What can I do to reduce the symptoms from a degenerated disc?
- Is surgery inevitable?
The most common symptom of Degenerative disc disease is pain and possibly radiating weakness or numbness stemming from a degenerated disc in the spine. While this may sound simple, many patients diagnosed with degenerative disc disease are left wondering exactly what this diagnosis means for them.
What you should know!
Degenerative disc disease is not actually a disease but a term used to describe the normal changes in your spinal discs as you age. Spinal discs are soft, compressible discs that separate the interlocking bones also known as vertebrae, that make up the spine. The discs act as shock absorbers for the spine, allowing it to flex, bend, and twist. Degenerative disc disease can take place throughout the spine, but it most often occurs in the discs in the lower back lumbar region and the neck cervical region.
- The changes in the discs can result in back or neck pain and/or:
- Osteoarthritis, the breakdown of the tissue cartilage that protects and cushions joints.
- Herniated disc, an abnormal bulge or a breaking open of a spinal disc.
- Spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal, the open space in the spine that holds the spinal cord.
These conditions may put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, leading to pain and possibly affecting nerve function.
What causes degenerative disc disease?
As we age our spinal discs break down or degenerate which may result in degenerative disc disease.
These age-related changes include:
- The loss of fluid in your discs. This reduces the ability of the discs to act as shock absorbers and makes them less flexible. Loss of fluid also makes the disc thinner and narrows the distance between the vertebrae.
- Tiny tears or cracks in the outer layer annulus or capsule of the disc. The jellylike material inside the disc nucleus may be forced out through the tears or cracks in the capsule, which causes the disc to bulge, break open rupture, or break into fragments.
These changes are more likely to occur in people who smoke cigarettes and do heavy physical work such as repeated heavy lifting. People who are obese are also more likely to have symptoms of degenerative disc disease.
A sudden acute injury leading to a herniated disc such as a fall may also begin the degeneration process. As the space between the vertebrae gets smaller, there is less padding between them, and the spine becomes less stable. The body reacts to this by constructing bony growths called bone spurs osteophytes. Bone spurs put pressure on the spinal nerve roots or spinal cord, resulting in pain and affecting the nerve function.
The Right Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment
Usually the goals of treatment for degenerative disc diseases are to rest and immobilize the area affected. This is done to give the soft tissues sufficient time to heal, as well as to decrease the inflammation in the supporting tissues and the affected nerve roots. Degenerative disc disease can be successfully treated with conservative, meaning non-surgical care consisting of medication to control inflammation and pain, steroid medications delivered either orally or through an epidural injections and physical therapy and exercise. Surgery is only considered when patients have not achieved relief over six months of nonsurgical care and are significantly constrained in performing everyday activities.
What you should know is the right DDD treatment is essential to relieving the pain of degenerative disc disease and is part of almost every treatment program for degenerative disc disease. Our degenerative disc disease treatment (Doctor’s Pain Relief Systems) has several great components like – Hamstring stretching, since tightness in the hamstring muscles down the back of the thigh can increase the stress on the back and make the pain caused by a degenerative disc worse. Hamstring stretching is always recommended to help relieve the pain and pressure. Back strengthening, where patients are taught to find their ‘natural spine,’ the position in which they feel most comfortable, and to maintain that position. Low-impact aerobic conditioning (such as walking, swimming, biking) to ensure adequate flow of nutrients and blood to spine structures, and relieve pressure on the discs. While it is common for patients to want to rest when the pain flares up, it is usually not advisable to rest for more than a day or two. I know it can be extremely uncomfortable to be active when dealing with this disease but I assure you it’ll get better with time. Stay active and keep great posture and I recommend Doctor’s Pain Relief Systems to strengthen, condition and relieve pressure on the discs and nerves that causes your DDD to flare up!