How can I avoid degenerative disc disease, you ask?
When the cushioning in your spine starts to deteriorate, degenerative disk disease develops. Older persons are most likely to have the disorder. Most people begin to develop some spinal degeneration after the age of 40.
The initial event in a series of alterations that may result in arthritis and potential problems such as spinal stenosis is typically DDD, as it is frequently referred to. Degenerative disc disease can be prevented via lifestyle and daily habit changes, which call for a commitment on your side to make healthier decisions.
When one or more of the discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column degrade or break down, it is known as degenerative disc disease. This age-related illness causes discomfort. Degenerative disc disease is a natural process that comes with aging rather than a disease.
The back can typically be bent and flexed thanks to the elastic discs between the vertebrae, which act as shock absorbers. They gradually deteriorate and stop providing as much protection as they once did.
The bones may begin to rub against one another when the elastic discs begin to wear out. This touch may result in discomfort and other issues, including:
- Herniated disk (ruptured disk)
- Adult scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
- Spinal stenosis (when the gaps surrounding your spine become smaller)
- Spondylolisthesis (movement of the vertebrae move in and out of place)
Who could suffer from degenerative disk disease?
The majority of cases of degenerative disk disease affect elderly persons. Your chance of having degenerative disk disease is influenced by a number of factors, such as:
- Women are more prone to suffering the signs of biological sex.
- Working a job that requires physical labor.
- Acute injuries, such as those caused by falls.
What signs and symptoms show up with degenerative disk disease?
Degenerative disc disease typically affects people in their 30s or 40s who are active and otherwise healthy. Back discomfort and neck pain are two of the most common signs of degenerative disk disease.
The following are typical signs of this condition:
- pain that is worse when sitting. The lower back discs are subjected to a three times greater load while seated than when standing.
- suffering from pain that worsens with bending, lifting, or twisting.
- feeling better while moving around—even running—than while spending extended periods of time sitting or standing.
- changing positions frequently or lying down to feel better.
- strong pain spells that come and go. Before they get better, it can last anywhere from a few days to a few months. They can be dull pain or incapacitating pain. Depending on where the damaged disc is, pain may originate in the neck or the low back and radiate to the arms and hands.
- tingling and numbness in the extremities.
- a possible symptom of nerve root injury is weakness in the legs or foot drop.
Degenerative disk disease: how is it identified?
Your doctor can start by questioning you about your symptoms in order to identify degenerative disk disease. Ones that may be asked are:
- What is your walking range?
- When does the discomfort begin?
- Where do you suffer?
- What physical activities hurt the most?
- What exercises lessen the pain?
- Did you experience discomfort as a result of an accident or injury?
- Do you also have numbness or tingling in your body?
The physician might employ imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. Your doctor can learn more about your disks’ condition and alignment through these tests. As part of a physical examination, your doctor may also check your:
Pain levels: Your health professional may push or touch certain regions of your back to determine how painful you are.
Nerve function: To test your reflexes, your doctor could use a reflex hammer. You may have injured or compressed nerves if your response is poor or nonexistent.
Strength: Muscle deterioration or atrophy (weakness) may be a sign of damaged nerves or worn-out discs.
How can I avoid degenerative disc disease?
By altering your lifestyle, you can stop or halt the progression of spinal deterioration. Some of these lifestyle changes that can help you avoid degenerative disc disease are as follows:
Achieving and keeping a healthy body weight
Consider achieving your optimum weight if you are not yet there. Less weight on your body means your joints and discs are not under as much stress.
According to a study in the International Journal of Obesity, those with a BMI above 25, which is considered to be overweight but not obese, are more likely to get lumbar disc degeneration. The researchers also noted that early-life obesity was particularly harmful to disc health.
Stretching before performing a strenuous activity can help prevent degenerative disc disease. You can maintain a healthy range of motion in all your joints and help your muscles relax by stretching.
It improves posture, increases blood flow to your muscles, and even lessens stress. Stretching is a technique used by athletes to warm up for an event and lower the risk of sports injuries.
Avoiding or giving up smoking
It is common knowledge that smoking has a number of negative health effects. And one of them is disc degeneration.
According to studies, smoking tobacco has multiple negative effects on discs across a variety of domains. For instance, a 2015 study that appeared in the journal PLoS discovered at least two ways that smoking can harm discs.
Not only does it lessen the amount of rebuilding that occurs at the disc’s margins, but it also narrows the blood vessels that are responsible for supplying the disc with nutrients.
Exercising regularly to improve flexibility and strength
Your spine and joints are supported by a complex network of muscles that enables your body to function as a whole and carry you throughout the day.
The muscles that support your spine and joints are the target of strengthening exercises, which enable these muscles to perform to their full potential. Poor posture, misalignments, and even back pain or discomfort can be caused by weak muscles.
You may feel pain and instability when your muscles aren’t correctly supporting your body, which can even increase your risk of injury. Yoga and other strength-building exercises can also help you build ab and core strength.
Because your core muscles are what support your upper body, strengthening them will immediately correlate to good posture and alignment. A healthy back and core muscles are better able to support the spine.
Consider taking frequent breaks from the computer, establishing a walking and stretching routine, eating healthily, and working with your healthcare practitioner and/or physical therapist to customize a lifestyle for your needs if you want to safeguard the long-term health of your spinal discs.