Since degenerative disc disease is a condition that progresses with age, prevention may seem impossible. We cannot turn back the hands of time. However, just as with cardiovascular disease, a healthy lifestyle may significantly delay its development.
What is degenerative disc disease?
With age, intervertebral discs naturally degenerate, resulting in decreased flexibility and increased susceptibility to injury. Precisely how does age cause degeneration? Medical research has found the following: According to the U. S. National Institutes of Health, at birth the human body contains 90% water, at adulthood it contains 70% water, and by age 90 it contains about 50% water. Additionally, the composition of elastin, the protein which gives tissues the ability to stretch, chemically changes. With age, elastin undergoes chemical cross-linking. This decreases the ability to stretch. With aging, bodies desiccate and become less stretchable. These two facts explain disc degeneration. Discs have two main components, an outer fibro-elastic containment rim and an inner soft gelatinous core. When axial loading pressure occurs along the spinal column, the central gelatinous core of the disc squeezes outward against the fibro-elastic containment rim of the disc. The elastic recoil of the containment wall pushes the gelatinous core back into position, reestablishing the height and shape of the disc. As a person ages, natural daily activity causes repeated loading of the disc. Tiny tears may develop in the fibers of the fibro-elastic outer containment wall. This causes some loss of the disc’s outer containment wall elasticity or recoil. The outer disc containment wall can no longer push the central core material back into shape as effectively. The outer containment wall sags, and is said to bulge or collapse. The disc may even herniate.
Behavior modification for degenerative disc disease prevention
There are several methods to reduce the physical demands placed upon the spine. Reduced demands pay the benefits of reduced wear.
- At work – always maintain proper posture; keep your spine straight and your shoulders back. Make sure your desk chair has proper lower back (lumbar) support. Take frequent breaks to walk and stretch.
- At home – never move objects that are too heavy. When sitting on a couch or in a recliner, keep your spine in a neutral position. Always make sure your lower back and neck are supported.
- While you sleep – get a medium-firm mattress and a pillow with cervical support; make an effort to sleep on your back, but if you must sleep on your side, put a pillow between your knees to make sure your spine doesn’t “collapse” into the curve of your body
Treatments for degenerative disc disease
When degenerative disc disease develops, there are a several effective non-surgical treatments for symptom management. Physical therapy, chiropractic work, low-impact exercise, pain medication, and yoga are all excellent ways to relieve pain.
In some cases, patients may not respond to conservative treatment and surgery is prescribed. It is reasonable to determine the least invasive efficacious surgical treatment possible. Please investigate the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. Laser Spine Institute offers efficacious procedures with shorter convalescent period and lower risk when compared with traditional open spine surgery of all types. Contact us today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, and to receive more information about Laser Spine Institute.