Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease – Symptoms and Treatment

In spite of its name, degenerative disc disease, is not a disease. Instead it is a symptom of pain and numbness from a degenerated disc in the spine. What happens is that discs usually lose their water content due to age and other health condition. Due to this the vertebrae is brought closer together which leads to narrowing of the nerve openings in the spine. In such a situation the discs fail to absorb the shocks properly – especially while running, jumping or walking.

Though degenerative disc disease can happen throughout the spine, it is usually the lower back (the lumbar region) and the cervical region (neck) which gets effetced the most. The changes which take place in the disc region can lead to medical conditions like:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Herniated disc

All these health conditions put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves around it, which results increased pain to the patient. Thus disc degeneration may cause back pain, pain in the legs along with functional problems like numbness in buttocks, legs and difficulty in walking.

When it comes to treating disc degeneration, initially the doctors recommend for non-surgical care like exercise, physiotherapy and medication to control inflammation and pain. Hamstring stretching, back strengthening exercise like dynamic lumbar stabilization program along with low-impact aerobic conditioning are some of the physical exercises which are also adviced by the doctors. Apart from this 'heat and ice therapy' has to be done in order to increase thee flexibility of the muscles in the effected areas.

Most of the times the physical exercises are combined with medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, narcotic pain medications and oral steroids among various other medicines.

Surgery is recommended only when the non-surgical care has failed to bring down the pain and provide the expected relief. Spinal fusion is the usually done to treat the degenerated disc. Once the surgery is done, there is a grave need of long intensive care for the recovery to be completed. This needs to be done by switching to light recreational sports only three months after the surgery. No driving at least for 2 weeks after the surgery and in case the patient is still on pain reliving medications then it is usually suggested that she avoids driving altogether. Along with these precautions, it is also adviced that the patient keeps away from lifting heavy weights and other intensive exercise regime.

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