Preventing Degenerative Disc Disease
Like most medical conditions, prevention is the best treatment. Despite the advances in minimally invasive spine surgery procedures for Degenerative Disc Disease, preventing the onset or progression of this sometimes-painful disease is still the best prescription. According to WebMD, it is more of a description of what happens to a spine with age rather than a specific disease. The discs in your spine resemble spongy ‘shock absorbers’ that not only provide cushioning between the bones in your spine but also provide flexibility and movement of the spine. Usually, the condition occurs in the lumbar (lower) spine or cervical (upper) spine. Among many causes of, the aging process is most significant. With age comes loss of fluid in the discs or cracks in the outer layer of the discs. Premature onset of this ‘disease’ may occur with certain risky behaviors such as maintaining excessive body weight, engaging in heavy physical work, and even smoking. A sudden injury to the spine or a herniated disc may also stimulate the onset of Degenerative Disc Disease.
While you may not know immediately when you are experiencing the condition, symptoms include pain in the back during twisting or bending of the spine, pain in the arm, or tingling in the arms and legs. Levels of pain can be anywhere from painless to excruciating pain and discomfort but it all depends on where and how badly the discs in the spine are degenerating. Of course, if you have any pain in your spine or feeling of numbness anywhere, you should always consult with a physician. Conservative treatments of Degenerative Disc Disease include application of ice or heat to the painful area or taking anti-inflammatory medication. Daily stretches and weekly physical therapy may also be a wise idea for those experiencing more pain. A damaged disc always has the opportunity to evolve into a bigger issue such as osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis. Usually, if minimally invasive spine surgery is necessary, the damaged disc is removed entirely, perhaps followed by a fusion of the bone.
But don’t wait until it gets to that point! There are some easy lifestyle changes you can begin immediately that reduce your risk of premature onset of Degenerative Disc Disease, or even halt its progression:
- Quit smoking. Nicotine and other toxins found in cigarettes are damaging to bone health.
- Reduce alcohol. Alcohol slows your metabolism thus hastening the deterioration of your bone health.
- Always maintain good posture. Maintaining good posture isn’t limited to the way you stand. Help yourself out by avoiding high heels; buying a good mattress that supports your spine, and not engaging in heavy lifting that is strenuous on the spine.
- Diet helps healthy bones. We all know by now what eating healthy means. Get tons of vitamins from fruits and vegetables. Stick to whole grains and get your protein from dairy, fish and lean meats. Avoid saturated fats and excess sugar.
- Exercise provides two benefits to your spine. It pumps blood throughout the body aiding in healthy bone growth and stimulates a neuro-chemical reaction in the brain that reduces pain.
- Vitamins and other supplements will reduce your risk of disc degeneration. Calcium, iron, and zinc all help maintain healthy bone structure.
With these preventive measures, you may be able to hold off debilitating symptoms, avoid chronic pain and even avoid surgery. If your condition worsens however, minimally invasive spine surgical procedures might be the best solution for an improved quality of life.