Degenerative disc disease or discopathy is an age-related process. The problems start in the spine, in which the cushioning located between the adjacent vertebrae (bones) deteriorates.
Usually, discopathy is the first event in the cascade of changes that can lead to arthritis and possible complications, such as spinal stenosis. Almost everyone develops at least a few degenerative spinal changes, so you need to make preventive lifestyle adjustments to avoid this potentially painful problem.
Keys to prevent degenerative disc disease – discopathy
First of all, it is important to be aware that lifestyle changes are important, but they must involve your active participation.
In other words, there is no pill to help in this case. The key to slowing the rate at which degenerative spinal changes develop is to reduce the causes that can lead to wear and tear on the spine and other joints.
Supplements and herbal medicines that strengthen and / or nourish the musculoskeletal system can generally play a role in maintaining the integrity of the spinal discs. We will talk more about this later in the article.
And now, here are some preventative tips to follow:
Live an active life and include movement in your daily routine
If you consult a specialist on what to do to prevent disc degeneration, he will probably tell you to exercise. Basically, this means moving your joints over the full range of their motion- something you need to do regularly.
If walking doesn’t hurt, include it in your regular program. Walking is gentle on the joints and helps increase circulation and muscular endurance and is also good for your heart. The American Exercise Council recommends going for a 30-minute walk (or other aerobic activity) about 5 times a week as a way to maintain your overall health.
But if walking causes pain, swimming is an alternative. As the degenerative changes progress, the movement of the joints may at some point become “bone on bone”, meaning that the disc (its ability to absorb impact) has worn out. In this case, ground exercises can increase your pain. However, exercise in water is very good because it takes a lot of the load on the bones.
Additionally, minimize or avoid altogether actions that involve sharp bending . This does not mean that you should not bend at all, but just do not do exercises that make you bend too much, as this also plays a role in bone wear. You may want to rely on a licensed, qualified discopathy specialist to make sure you are not contributing to the development of your disease.
Stop smoking or better yet, do not start
It is well known that smoking is associated with many health problems. Disc degeneration is one of them.
Studies show that smoking affects discs in more ways than one, as well as in more than one area. For example, a 2015 study published in the journal PLoS found that there are at least two mechanisms by which smoking can damage discs. It not only reduces the repair activity that takes place at the ends of the disc, but also constricts the blood vessels that are tasked to deliver nutrients to the disc.
The habit of smoking can also worsen back pain. Science is still studying this topic and how smoking affects bone disease, but it is generally believed that it increases any pain.
Adopt a new dietary approach
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, taking supplements and herbal remedies can prevent or at least slow down the development of discopathy.
The use of diet and possibly some supplements, including herbs, can generally indirectly contribute to the well-being of your discs.
Foods and supplements that support the musculoskeletal system can help maintain healthy bones. Probably the most useful is vitamin D.
A 2016 study involving 110 patients with degenerative disc disease found that nearly half were deficient in vitamin D. Researchers say more studies are needed before they can recommend this particular vitamin, but still, some studies show that vitamin D is also associated with a reduced risk of breaking bones.
Is discopathy genetically transmitted?
This condition of the spine is most often associated with aging, but is it genetic? Over the last decade, research has been done to determine if there is a hereditary factor involved in the condition. Some evidence suggests that lumbar disc disease may indeed be inherited. It is concluded that people with family members who have a degenerative disc are more likely to develop the disease on their own. The data is not 100% convincing but they do show that yes – there may be a genetic component to degenerative lumbar disc disease.
In addition, the study found a potential link between how people perceive pain caused by the disease and heredity. This is in line with other studies that show that pain tolerance and sensitivity can also be inherited, although no pain gene has been found.
However, the level of pain you experience can be avoided if you live a healthy and active lifestyle with regular exercise.
The degenerative disc can be treated in many ways based on the severity of the condition and the symptoms the patient is experiencing. Treatment should be less invasive at first and gradually intensified.
In the first place, as already mentioned, are:
- Exercise and physical therapy: If the pain does not prevent you from moving, your overall mobility can be increased by doing certain exercises regularly to strengthen the area around your spine. This can stabilize the affected discs. These exercises include walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, and Pilates. You can also go to a physiotherapist to learn proper walking techniques and exercises for discopathy. Physical activity will provide pain relief and increase your mobility.
- Other courses of action include:
- Medications: Doctors may prescribe various medications to control the symptoms and relieve the pain. These may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, analgesics, or steroids. Steroid drugs can be taken orally by the patient or injected into the spine by a doctor under the guidance of X-rays.
- Surgical treatment: If other treatments are not effective enough, surgery is the other option. The most common operations include artificial disc replacement, spinal fusion, and decompression.
- Stem cell therapy: Stem cell therapy is a type of regenerative treatment in which stem cells are injected into the degenerative disc. The injected stem cells stimulate healing and regeneration.
What else can lead to discopathy?
Sometimes injuries over time contribute to disc degeneration, even if they were minor.
Daily stress can also cause discopathy.
- Lifting heavy objects
Lifting too heavy objects also plays a big role in disc degeneration and discopathy. Therefore, when lifting heavy objects, do not try to lift them on your side or back. Stand with the load in front of you. With your knees bent in a squatting or half-keeling (one knee on the floor) position and your back in a neutral position, lift the object gently and slowly toward your chest. Avoid warping or tilting the body when lifting and lowering.
And if you are lifting weights or just training, follow your coach’s instructions.
Obesity and insufficient water intake can also lead to discopathy.