Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is not an actual disease – and contrary
to its name, it does not necessarily mean that your spine will continue
to degenerate as you get older. Instead, DDD is an accelerated degenerative
condition of the intervertebral discs in the spine. DDD tends to affect
others in their 20s or 30s as a result of genetics, lifestyle, or general health.
Degenerative disc disease symptoms can arise if a deteriorating disc bulges
or ruptures and irritates the tiny nerve fibers that innervate the disc
wall, or comes in contact with the spinal cord or nerve roots. Nerve compression
typically leads to focal pain and radiating symptoms of pain, weakness,
tingling, and numbness in the upper or lower body. These symptoms often
respond well to conservative, or nonsurgical, treatments,
which your doctor will likely recommend. Conservative treatments that
may help you manage your DDD symptoms could include:
- Cold therapy – to reduce inflammation and numb pain
- Heat therapy – to relieve muscle tension and promote nutrient-rich
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – to alleviate pain
and reduce inflammation
Physical therapy – to strengthen weak core muscles, promote proper body mechanics,
and learn stretching techniques that can help relieve pressure within
the spinal column
In addition to these treatments, you can also combat your symptoms by losing
weight if you are overweight, eating a well-balanced diet, and avoiding
excessive tobacco or alcohol use.
For most patients with degenerative disc disease, a conservative treatment
regimen can alleviate pain. As a result, surgery is rarely needed to treat
DDD. If your doctor has suggested that you consider a surgical procedure,
be sure to get a few other medical opinions.
Any surgery has its risks, so be sure to explore all of your options before
you sign a consent form.