Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of pain in the lower back and neck and is also the most misunderstood. Upon diagnosis, degenerative disc disease simply describes the symptoms of pain and the possible weakness and numbness which stem from the degenerated disc in the spine.
However, many patients that have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease have a high chance of not understanding the nature and scope of the diagnosis and what it means for them.
Many concerns would normally center around the effect of the disease on your regular activities or whether the condition could be crippling or not. Also, questions are normally raised as to the painful effects, the permanence of the condition and the inevitability of surgery.
Diagnosis of degenerative disc disease can be truly alarming to patients. This is especially true since the term “degenerating” in common parlance connotes a progressive disease. However, the term being used is actually a misnomer.
Degenerative disc disease is actually not a “disease” and not “degenerative.”
For most people, if a disease is classified as degenerative, it would imply that the condition could get worse as you grow older. But the term “degenerative” does not apply to the symptoms and your overall condition but rather, it describes the process of the disc degenerating over time.
Another source of confusion is the term “disease” which connotes health deterioration. But this is only a condition that at times can produce pain from a damaged disc. It is usually part of your aging process and over time, the changes of the disc can result in lesser pain.
Pain Management for Degenerative Disc Disease
The field of pain management involves a wide variety of techniques to address pain and other painful disorders.
Low back pain caused by the degenerative disc disease is often difficult to treat and many patients would often try one treatment or a combination of treatments before finding the one that is sufficient to relieve them from pain. The treatment is then combined with a healthy diet and a fitness and exercise routine to achieve maximum results.
One treatment being used to alleviate pain is the use of psychological tools and behavioral methods to allow you to self-manage the pain and related discomfort. This includes relaxation techniques and various coping mechanisms designed to reduce the symptoms of lower back pain.
Chiropractic manipulation is also another treatment. This treatment involves the taking of pressure off sensitive neurological tissue with concomitant restoration of the blood flow and reduction of muscle tension.
In chiropractic manipulation, the aim is to create a series of endorphin reactions that would act as natural painkillers.
Another treatment option for degenerative disc disease is the taking of epidural steroid injections. This involves the delivery of steroid or any anesthetic into the epidural space of the spine.
However, this treatment only provides temporary relief from pain which can be useful to give you immediate comfort as you start the recommended exercise and rehabilitation program. Epidural injections have a 50 percent probability rate of success in alleviating pain but can be only done three times at most per year.
Electrical stimulation is also a way of managing pain in the lower back spine caused by degenerative disc disease. It is seen to have eased the pain of many patients who opted not to take in pain medications.
In this method, pads are placed directly on the skin above the problematic area where electrical charges are transmitted. This supports the theory that electric signals can divert the pain sensors thereby reducing the patient’s discomfort.
Limiting the motion of the spine is also seen as a way of treating patients suffering of degenerative disc disease. This is achieved through wearing braces around your lower back spine which results to limitations of the spine motion thereby reducing the episodic pains.
However, wearing back braces is not advisable by medical experts in the long term. This is because back braces can lead to the weakening of the back muscle which could result to more serious repercussions.
Vitamins and Supplements for Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is actually caused by the wear and tear of your disc in the spine which becomes damaged from overuse. This condition can attack even younger and healthy active individuals as it has been shown by studies that diet and nutrition can play a significant role in maintaining a healthy spine.
Vital to the development of stronger bones is calcium. In fact, when you have low calcium, you tend to develop weak and more fragile vertebrae which can be more prone to pain. As such, you must ensure that your diet is rich in calcium to strengthen your discs.
Calcium can be sourced out from food like cheese, milk and yogurt as well as from green leafy vegetables, peanuts, tofu, black beans and sesame seeds. For easier absorption of calcium, you also need sufficient Vitamin D which you can get from milk and cereals.
You can also take in Vitamin C for cell regeneration which can be most helpful in case your disc has started its degenerating process. As Vitamin C is a rich source of antioxidants that reduce the effects of free radicals, it can help the production of collagen which is much needed by your body to regenerate the disc tissue surrounding your vertebrae.
Food like spinach, sweet potato, broccoli and green peppers are rich source of Vitamin C. You can also get your much-needed Vitamin C from kitchen staples like tomatoes, oranges, strawberries, and kiwis.
To strengthen your bones, you also need Vitamin B12 which can be sourced from eggs, cheese, milk and other dairy products. It is also advisable in order to lessen the pressure in your spine to maintain a low calorie diet.
In fact, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a fat diet can not only cause your episodic pain when you are diagnosed with degenerative disc disease but also considered the main contributor to developing said condition.
However, professional medical advice and guidance is still the best option once you are having pain from degenerative disc disease. You can see the team at Arizona Spine and Pain to get the best medical advice after consideration of your specific condition and circumstances.