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Degenerative Disc Disease
Over time, changes can happen to the discs in your spine that can lead to degeneration. Trauma, poor posture and movement, as well as general wear and tear can all cause the discs to degenerate. With degenerative disc disease (DDD) the discs begin to narrow from loss of water content. The fibres of the disc can tear, allowing disc fluid to bulge or protrude. As the discs lose their ability to absorb shock, the spinal vertebrae will then create more bony projections, called osteophytes.
This condition can happen anywhere along the spine, but is most common in the neck (cervical region) or lower back (lumbar region). Depending on where it is, the disc degeneration can cause nerves to become compressed. This can cause pain, numbness and tingling in the back, neck, or that can travel into the arms or legs. In some cases damaged discs can weaken muscles and affect your balance and ability to walk. Degenerative Disc Disease can also lead to the development of other conditions, such as Osteoarthritis, Spinal Stenosis or Spondylolisthesis.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
The severity of DDD can vary hugely person to person. Here are the most common symptoms:
- Back or Neck Pain
- General Stiffness
- Numbness, tingling or weakness into the arms or legs
- Pain caused by a certain activity: for example bending or lifting
- If Degenerative Disc Disease affects the lower back, sitting or standing for a long time may make the pain worse. However activities like swimming or gentle exercise may help to ease the pain
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment
Through the right treatment and rehabilitation, good results can be achieved depending on how severe the degeneration is. A combination of shockwave and spinal decompression therapies can be highly effective. If the degeneration is severe or there is slow healing in the area, laser therapy may reduce sensitivity and accelerate healing.
- Spinal Decompression therapy uses a low percentage of your body weight to gently stretch the spine, relieving pressure on the disc and allow healing to take place.
- By reducing the pressure on the spine, the discs receive hydration and vital nutrients allowing them to heal the cellular damage.
- Shockwave therapy helps overall healing in the body by increasing the amount of blood flow into the body's tissues.
- Shockwave can also improve the movement and flexibility in the spine, which can relieve any stiffness and misalignments in the body.
What is degenerative disc disease?
Degenerative disc disease is a process of spinal dysfunction that can occur over time. It can involve varying degrees of dehydration and narrowing of vertebral discs, arthritis of the vertebral facet joints, and increased bone formation (called osteophytes). Degeneration is typically a slow process and therefore will often be, but not always, more severe in older adults.
What causes degenerative disc disease?
Degeneration can occur as a result of many reasons for instance: car accidents, falls, or other physical trauma, poor posture and movement, or wear and tear from repetitive activities like sports. These can all place increased stress and force on spinal discs resulting in a breakdown of the disc’s structure. Our discs act as padding for the rest of the spine, any degeneration will make the disc less shock-absorbent, and therefore the spine becomes weaker. When this happens, there is reduced movement between each vertebra and this can cause stiffness in movement.
What is the best treatment for degenerative disc disease?
This depends on how much the spinal degeneration has progressed. However, the outlook is normally good and patients can benefit from a combination of our shockwave, decompression therapies, and/or laser therapies. Therapeutic choices are based upon completion of the examination process, during which we determine the severity of the degeneration and other contributing or complicating factors.
Does degenerative disc disease get worse?
If degeneration is present it may worsen over time if left untreated. As the vertebral discs dehydrate and bulge it can lead to spinal or foraminal stenosis (affecting the spinal cord or nerve roots). These conditions can cause worsening pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling into the arms and legs. This may affect your ability to walk, stand, pick up objects or perform normally daily activities like getting dressed.
Can degenerative disc disease be cured?
According to current medical research and understanding, spinal degeneration can not be cured. However, our forms of treatment can help with the pain it causes. Our therapies are also directed towards improving the alignment and strength of your spine, in an effort to slow the progress of degeneration.
What are the best exercises for degenerative disc disease?
Physical activity may be beneficial in improving your spinal health and condition. However, we typically only introduce exercises after an initial course of treatment has been completed. Our therapies help improve the function of the spine, such as movement, flexibility, and strength. Once your spine has stabilised and the pain has reduced, we then recommend beginning physical activity. The exercises we introduce are specific to improving your physical condition and continued stabilisation of your spine.
“My pain levels have reduced and I’m more flexible.”
“I have more confidence in my overall movement”
“I was shocked at the difference after my first session.”