Degenerative Disc Disease is a misunderstood condition, despite being one of the leading sources of back pain and neck pain. This condition is not actually a disease -- it is part of the normal aging of the spine. In this condition, the discs in the spine (the pillow-like pads between the bones) lose their cushioning. When this happens, it can cause persistent pain in the lower back, legs, neck or arms. Treatments for pain caused by degenerative disc disease can include medications and physical therapy. Sometimes back surgery is needed if the pain is severe and causes a person the inability to participate in everyday activities.
Many patients diagnosed with low back pain caused by degenerative disc disease are left wondering exactly what this diagnosis means for them. Common questions that are often on patients’ minds include:
• If I have low back 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?
Common Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease: Along with MRI scan results that show disc degeneration, there are some common symptoms that are fairly consistent for people with low back pain from degenerative disc disease. The typical individual with degenerative disc disease is an active and otherwise healthy person who is in their thirties or forties. In general, the patient’s pain should not be continuous and severe. If it is, then other diagnoses must be considered. Degenerative disc disease pain is usually more related to activity and will flare up at times but then return to a low grade pain level or the pain will go away entirely.
Degenerative Disc Disease: the Natural Degenerative Process: When we are born, the disc is comprised of about 80% water, which gives it its spongy quality and allows it to function as a shock absorber. As we age, the water content decreases and the disc becomes less capable of acting as a shock absorber.
The proteins within the disc space also change composition, and most of us will develop tears into the annulus fibrosus (the outer hard core of the disc).
Degenerative Disc Disease Exercises Facts: There is no denying that exercise therapy DOES HELP many patients. Exercise increases regional circulation (blood flow) and therefore combats the most common and least diagnosed form of chronic back pain. Exercise becomes one of the many tools in the diagnostic process which can confirm the suspect causation and guide the patient towards a real cure. In addition, active exercise is also important for the health of the spinal discs. Movement helps exchange nutrients and fluids within the discs to keep them healthy.