That is a rather a scary-sounding diagnosis. Don’t panic if you learn you have “degenerative disc disease.” In spite of its name, it’s not actually a disease, and it doesn’t inevitably worsen over time. “The normal process by which discs change as we age is simply called ‘degeneration.’ So everyone experiences it to some degree during their lifetime,” It’s a natural part of ageing.
What happens when discs deteriorate?
As we age, our discs start to dry and shrink. When we are a baby they are like jelly pads. Once we start to toddle around gravity puts some pressure on them and they squish a bit. Over time this becomes worse. In some cases, these changes lead to ruptured or herniated discs some instability in the spine, and/or narrowing of the spinal canal.
These issues may cause symptoms, neck pain, back pain, differed pain, weakness or numbness in the arms and legs.
The good news is that the symptoms don’t typically progress and over time the pain may subside. Taking steps to manage symptoms and keep your spine and back health can help you stay mobile and active throughout your life.
Prevention is the best medicine
A healthy lifestyle not only improves symptoms, it can actually slow the degenerative process.
Make activities such as core strengthening and stretching part of your routine. Working with an osteopath or physio can also help A LOT. Correct exercise can help you keep your spine strong and supported and help with weight management.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts more stress on your spine. A fat tummy will alter your centre of gravity and put a strain on your lower back. Excess weight can also keep you from being physically active.
In addition to the regular well-known effects on your health, it can significantly increase your affect disc health and speed the rate of degeneration.
Drink more water. Hydration promotes healthy discs and a healthy body.; excessive alcohol dehydrates you plus it can lead to accidents. If you are out drinking make sure you have water with you to drink alongside the alcoholic drink and of course stay within the recognised guidelines for alcohol consumption!
Managing the pain.
Along with lifestyle changes and physical therapies you may be prescribed medication to manage flare ups. Over-the-counter pain relievers e.g. Paracetamol. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs e.g., ibuprofen or cortisone injections. Spinal injections (e.g., epidural steroid injections)
When to have surgery
Most people feel and function better once symptoms are treated by nonsurgical means and they have learned and committed to proper self-care. There are times though when surgery is recommended. The sorts of surgery that may be performed are:
• Decompression – removal of a displaced disc or overgrown bone to free pinched nerves.
• Fusion using a bone bridge to join two bones together and provide stability and prevent painful motion.
• Deformity correction to address abnormal curvatures.
• Placement of implants, such as spacers, artificial discs and nerve stimulators.
These are just a few ways to improve the symptoms of disc degeneration. I would, of course, suggest that the exercises we do in class will be of benefit to just about everyone and if I think you need to see another professional I will aim to point you the right direction.