What You Need to Know About Degenerative Disc Disease

If you have chronic pain in your back as you get older, it may be an indication you have a condition known as degenerative disc disease.

At The Institute for Comprehensive Spine Care, Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, FAAOS, treats a number of patients who need help managing degenerative disc disease and preventing a worsening of the condition.

To help you understand your risks for the disease and how you can lower them, Dr. Bo covers the ins and outs of degenerative disc disease.

An overview of degenerative disc disease

Within your spine are protective discs that sit between your vertebrae, cushioning your spine and absorbing the shock of your movements. As you get older, these discs undergo degenerative changes that reduce their effectiveness.

You may also experience disc damage following an auto accident, a fall, or because of repetitive lifting required in your job or your usual physical activities. If you smoke or are obese, you may be more likely to develop degenerative disc disease than others without those risk factors.

As your spinal discs begin wearing out, the gel-like center can push outward and through the tougher exterior. This gel often presses on nearby spinal nerves and leads to chronic back pain that also radiates down into your limbs.

Numbness, tingling, and weakness also can affect your physical health, limiting what you can do. For some, unmanaged degenerative disc disease can lead to disability.

Treatment options for degenerative disc diseases

As a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Bo offers both conservative and surgical treatments for degenerative disc disease.

In the earliest stages, you can find relief of pain due to damaged discs with physical therapy, oral medications, and injectable cortisone therapy. These treatments can also make it easier for you to exercise to strengthen the muscles that support your spine.

When you have chronic pain from nerve compression or conservative treatments aren’t enough to ease your pain, you may be a candidate for surgery. A common type of minimally invasive surgery for degenerative disc disease is decompression surgery, which involves removing portions of bone to alleviate pressure on the nerves.

Dr. Bo is also highly skilled in other types of surgery, including fusions to stabilize your spine and disc replacements to remove the damaged disc and replace it with an artificial one.

Reducing your risk factors for degenerative disc disease

It’s never too late to focus on improving the health of your spine. Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms of degenerative disc disease, you can start working toward preventing the condition from developing in the first place.

Here are ways you can reduce your risk of developing pain and other symptoms of degenerative disc disease:

Eat right

Ask Dr. Bo for advice on your diet, especially the foods that can improve your bone and muscle health as you age. If you aren’t getting the right vitamins and minerals, you may be at increased risk for also developing other spine conditions, like osteoporosis.

Incorporate more foods with vitamin D and calcium or ask about the right supplements to take to support good spine health.

Keep moving

If you’re already having pain, it can be difficult to get up and get active. However, daily exercise is key to boost your spine health and protecting the integrity of your discs.

Even if you can only walk a few blocks at a time, do it every day. As you get stronger, work with Dr. Bo on adopting other exercises into your routine.

Take a break

If you are physically active and regularly lift heavy objects at work or for fun, speak with Dr. Bo about the proper lifting techniques you should be using to avoid spine injuries.

Whether you work at a desk or in manual labor, it’s vital that you take a break when possible. Getting up and stretching regularly when you do desk work is just as important as sitting down and resting when you’re tired from manual work.

To learn more about available treatments for existing degenerative disc disease, schedule a consultation with Dr. Bo by calling The Institute for Comprehensive Spine Care or by requesting an appointment online today.

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