While not a disease per se, degenerative disc disease (DDD) can begin to affect us as we age. Over time, our spinal discs deteriorate through simple wear and tear. Every one of us is subject to disc degeneration but depending on how much care we take in looking after our spinal health; it may or may not manifest itself in the form of lower back pain or the onset of conditions such as sciatica.
Very often degenerative disc disease will, at some point in your life begin to cause painful symptoms. Just as often, the painful attacks will subside on their own within two or three months as the affected disc stabilizes and stops causing inflammation or nerve irritation. In fact, this is true in more than 90% of diagnosed DDD cases.
The best approach if you have been diagnosed is to take pain management action to reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups. You can manage your pain successfully without resorting to medication by undergoing treatment from a physical therapist, chiropractor or massage therapist – and also by self-treatment with ice or heat packs applied to the painful area. If you have been suffering with lower back pain for more than three months and there appears to be no sign of stabilization, you may have to take further steps to reduce the impact of your degenerative disc symptoms.
Effective Degenerative Disc Self-Care
If repeated attacks of lower back pain or sciatica symptoms are beginning to get you down, there is actually plenty you can do to help alleviate the problem without the need to consider surgery or even begin the regular use of medication. An effective self-care program can do much to help you live with degenerative disc disease and minimize the degree to which it affects your quality of life.
While continuing with conservative treatment to manage your pain, these are some of the important measures you can take to improve your spinal health:
1) Begin a program of progressive, controlled exercise.
2) Identify general health improvement steps you can take – This will probably involve making some lifestyle changes.
3) Improve your diet and increase your levels of hydration.
Exercise and Activity to Limit Disc Degeneration
The degeneration of your spinal discs can actually be slowed down and even healed by a program of appropriate exercise. Exercising improves the blood circulation and increases the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to your spinal discs. Meanwhile, engaging in controlled exercise may also help to relieve leg or lower back pain resulting from DDD through the release of your body’s natural pain killers, endorphins.
The two most appropriate forms of exercise for degenerative disc treatment are aerobic conditioning and stretching. You can increase your mobility by performing a few minutes of stretching exercises when you first wake in the morning and last thing before you sleep. Hamstring stretches in particular can be beneficial if you suffer with lower back pain.
Alternating 30 minutes of walking, biking or swimming every other day with the same duration spent on back strengthening exercises will also maintain your mobility and flexibility as well as help keep your weight under control. If you suffer from quite severe pain, swimming is probably the kindest form of aerobic activity to avoid exacerbating your degree of pain.
Lifestyle, Diet and Hydration
If exercise can curb the progression of degenerative disc disease, changing aspects of your lifestyle which contribute to accelerating the condition is also an important part of a self-care program. Key factors which you should try to change include:
- Avoid spending long periods of time sitting down
- If you do need to sit for long periods, concentrate on maintaining an upright posture
- Avoid remaining in any one position for long periods of time
- Try to avoid lifting heavy objects and if you need to do so, practice safe lifting techniques, which do not involve bending from the waist
- Changing the mattress on your bed to one which is firmer and more supportive
- Sip water frequently throughout the day to improve hydration
- Limit the intake of coffee, tea and sodas which contain caffeine
- Minimize your consumption of alcohol
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
Most important of all, if you smoke, you should definitely do your utmost to quit. Smoking and in fact any form of nicotine intake seriously reduces the delivery of oxygen to your spinal discs.
If You Need Help to Find Relief from Lower Back Pain
Perhaps you are already engaged in a self-care program for degenerative disc disease and receiving conservative treatments, all to no avail. If so, Orange County Wellness Physicians Medical Center can help you. If terrible back ache is affecting you or a loved one and relief seems impossible to attain, learn about our unique and highly effective Spine and Disc Restoration SytemTM. If you provide us with your email address we will send you all the information you need straight to your inbox. Alternatively, please feel free to give us a call at (888) 513-3472.