Degenerative Disc Disease Pain Relief
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a condition in which the intervertebral discs dehydrate and shrink. DDD leads to loss of disc height and reduction of the intervertebral spaces between vertebrae. This condition generally occurs in the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine). DDD is also known as spinal degeneration or just plain disc disease.
Despite the name, degenerative disc disease this condition is simply natural part of human aging. Most people by the time they are 30 have some degree of disc degeneration in one or more lumbar discs. Nearly as many people have similar degeneration their cervical discs by the same age. Degenerative disc disease is common in many men and women, however only a small fraction of those people ever experience any symptoms.
Disc desiccation is often used interchangeably with degenerative disc disease. In fact desiccation is the initial step in the DDD process.
Desiccation means to lose water. The intervertebral discs, as with most parts of our body, are composed primarily of water. As discs grow older, it is normal for them to lose water content. This results in the visible signs of degenerative disc disease that are frequently seen on MRIs. As they dehydrate the discs can shrink, losing mass, height and circumference. DDD also contributes to the arthritis that is generally found in the lumbar and cervical spine, primarily the production of osteophytes (bone spurs) and degenerative endplate (bone disc transition) changes.
Degenerative disc disease is not exclusively a condition of the elderly. In fact, everyone has the signs of DDD to some extent by the age of thirty and numerous people have it in their teens. Lifestyle and hereditary patterns can make some people susceptible to the physical changes of DDD, but such patterns do not have any correlation to the development of lower back pain. While it surprises some physicians DDD is rarely symptomatic and normal spine degeneration has NOT been proven to be associated with an increase in lower back pain.
Because DDD is a normal part of spinal aging it is not usually the only cause of back pain. Many conditions that present together with degenerative disc disease such a spinal stenosis and disc herniation and may be the true source of the pain. DDD can be treated effectively with physical therapy and other conservative treatment.
Physical therapy for DDD includes the use of massage to loosen up the muscles in the back, hips and legs. This helps restore natural range of motion to the lower back. Restoring normal low back and hip mechanics goes a long way to eliminating many of the causes of pain associated with DDD.
Like many other lower back problems DDD is generally the result of persistent inflammation of the discs, ligaments and soft tissues in the spine. Once normal range of motion is restored to the hips and low back the restricted movements of the spine and hips no longer irritate these structures and the pain subsides.
Strengthening of the lower back, abdominals and core muscles is also important for improving the posture and spinal mechanics both of which help reduce pain with activity.