Many people consider the aches and pains they get in their back an inevitable part of the aging process. And while it is true that spinal discs begin to break down as a natural process of aging, healthy lifestyle choices can prevent spinal diseases such as Degenerative Disc Diseases (DDD) from occurring early or worsening. Ahead, we’ll discuss how to lessen the risks and progression of Degenerative Disc Disease.
WHAT IS DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE?
Your spine’s vertebra is a biological shock absorber. Everything you do once you stand up puts pressure on your discs and tasks your spine’s capability to support your weight. The intervertebral disc lies between adjacent vertebrae in the vertebral column. The degeneration of these intervertebral discs causes many of the problems in the spine.
As the days of your life begin to add up, your vertebral discs eventually begin to feel the effects of daily wear and tear. Over time, minor injuries and repeated stress begin to affect your spine’s discs, which ultimately translate to their degeneration. In brief, as you get older, your body’s vertebral discs will start to show signs of wear and tear and break down.
However, not everyone feels pain. Degenerative disk disease is when the changes in the disks of your spine start to cause pain. If you live with chronic pain of this type, you may have DDD.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
With degenerative disc disease, the main issue lies within one or more of your intervertebral discs. Each intervertebral disc contains a soft inside layer, the nucleus pulposa. This core of this nucleus is comprised of a jelly-like substance, mainly made up of water and a loose collection of collagen fibers. Outside of the nucleus pulposa is a sturdy, flexible ring that surrounds it, the annulus fibrosus.
When we get older, these soft nuclei within our intervertebral discs become less soft and dry out in a process known as desiccation. Vertebral discs often become smaller and less flexible when this happens, making them more susceptible to fissures and degradation.
ADVERSE EFFECTS OF DESICCATION
There are two adverse effects associated with desiccation. Firstly, the discs become less effective at absorbing shock. Secondly, the nucleus is more inclined to punch through the annulus. In cases of the latter, a common condition known as disc herniation occurs.
Disc herniation causes bulging discs, which are quite common in both young adults and older people. Bulging discs are no cause for alarm. On the other hand, if these bulges compress a nerve root, you might feel back pain, numbness, radiating pain, weakness or tingling in your arms or legs.
SYMPTOMS OF DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE
If you have DDD, you likely will feel a perpetual pain in your back. And while the pain you experience will relate to the region of your weakened disc(s), common symptoms that indicate you have it include pain that:
- Comes in waves, ranging from dull to severe
- Occurs in your buttocks, lower back and upper thighs
- Feels worse when you sit, but feels better once you’re active
- Intensifies whenever you bend, lift or twist
- Decreases when you lie down or change positions
HOW TO PREVENT DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE
Degenerative disc disease is a chronic condition, with a progression that occurs slowly as you age. You will most likely have quite a bit of time between your first stab of pain and desiccated discs. Many things can be done to lower its progression or risk, including the following:
- Don’t smoke – Nicotine is a diuretic, and compelling scientific evidence shows that smoking increases desiccation rates.
- Use proper lifting techniques – Lift with proper body mechanics to keep from stressing your spine and herniating your discs.
- Avoid alcohol – Alcohol is another diuretic like nicotine. Studies show drinking it not only increases the pain of degenerative disc disease but other spinal disorders as well.
- Drink water – Hydration is a vital part of a healthy diet, and drinking plenty of water allows nutrients to travel to your body’s organs. Water is also needed to maintain the optimal functioning of the joints, organs and the spine.
- Cut out colas – An osteoporosis study on older women indicated that the phosphoric acid in colas binds to calcium and magnesium in the digestive tract, resulting in lower bone mass density.
- Be active – Regular exercise increases the flexibility and strength of muscles that surround and support your spine. Be sure to discuss with your doctor or physical therapist about the most appropriate way to stretch if you have any health concerns.
- Maintain a healthy body weight – Multiple studies indicate that maintaining body weight is key to your overall health, and carrying excess pounds can give you anything from problems with your feet and ankles to back problems. The good news is that it is within your control and you can work on it at home. Find out your ideal weight and stick to it; because the higher your BMI, the more stress is placed on your spine.
- Take Supplements – Taking vitamins and minerals may help maintain healthy bone structure (check with a doctor first).*
- Practice Good Posture – Good posture keeps your spine strong and stable. Unfortunately, when we slouch or stoop, it strains ligaments and aggravates existing back conditions such as DDD and sciatica.
*PILLS VS. GOOD NUTRITION
The efficacy of supplements is sometimes debated, and experts agree that supplements are not the magic bullet to better health and prevention of chronic disease. Johns Hopkins researchers say,
“Other nutrition recommendations have much stronger evidence of benefits—eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar you eat.”
Still, there are strong cases to be made for supplementing a healthy diet, especially if you absorb the nutrients from your food poorly. Talk to your primary care physician and/or a registered dietician about their healthy diet or supplement recommendations. Additionally, these knowledgeable professionals can discuss with you what foods are particularly essential to spinal health and which ones to avoid.
EXPLORE NON-SURGICAL TREATMENT OPTIONS FIRST
Before we can diagnose your condition and design a treatment plan, a complete history and physical examination are necessary. That plan of action is absolutely essential to determine what is and what is not causing your pain. After we have a better idea of what is causing your discomfort, diagnostic tests may be recommended, followed by any treatment deemed necessary.
Invasive surgical procedures such as spinal fusion and artificial disc replacement should only be used as a last resort for DDD. These surgeries can have lasting side effects, long downtimes and in some cases, may even be ineffective or make you worse.
In fact, any surgery on your back should only be an option if conservative treatments haven’t worked out for you and the pain is non-stop and disabling. Modern advancements in treatments, such as non-surgical RejuvaDISC®, make it unnecessary to turn to surgery for back pain relief in a majority of cases.
AVOID SURGERY; HEAL YOUR BAD DISCS
At Select Health Pain & Regenerative Solutions in the Twin City area, we take a different approach to treating back pain that starts at your core. Our RejuvaDISC® approach uses state-of-the-art technology and procedures to target the failed spinal structures that allowed your disc(s) to degrade in the first place.
When you become part of our Edina, Minnesota-based practice’s RejuvaDISC® program, your degenerating discs receive what they need to heal. We assist in making your discs’ built-in mechanisms activate, allowing for better self-repair and healing. The process leads to correcting and improving your bad discs, allowing for the relief or elimination of symptoms.
REJUVADISC® WORKS WHERE OTHERS FAIL
RejuvaDISC® treatment protocols we use help alleviate pain and can work when all other treatments fail. That’s because our RejuvaDISC® program has a high chance of success since it gets to the root of the problem other treatments miss or don’t address.
Our non-surgical, pain-free procedures result in a more effective solution and longer-lasting cessation of pain. Select Health Pain & Regenerative Solutions custom tailors our treatment to each patient, and it may include our protocols in tandem with stem cells and Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy for patients who qualify.
WHY CHOOSE US FOR DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE TREATMENT?
The office of Select Health Pain & Regenerative Solutions is in a state-of-the-art Integrated Medical Center in Edina, MN. Our premier providers and exemplary medical assistant staff are dedicated to assisting you with healing and improving without pharmaceuticals or surgery. Our specialty is in the treatment of chronic and severe hurting caused by disc, peripheral neuropathy, spine and joint damage.