Written by Debby Mar 10 2014
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a condition with a misleading name in that it is not actually a disease but part of the natural aging process of the spine. When the discs in the spine (the pillow-like pads between the bones) lose their cushioning it can cause pain in the lower back, legs, neck or arms. DDD is one of the leading sources of back and neck pain.
The discs are made up of a fibrous capsule which contains a jelly-like centre. This makes for a very strong structure able to bear weight and absorb shock. As we age the centre loses fluid and becomes more fibrous, and the disc reduces in height as a result. This means that the disc is less able to bear weight and absorb shock and more strain is put onto the joints of our spine. Other consequences include a narrowing of the spaces through which the spinal nerves travel, and an increased curve in the thoracic spine (upper back) causing a stooped posture.
Often described as ‘wear and tear’ and a condition that ‘you will have to live with’ most patients with lumbar degenerative disc disease will experience only low-grade continuous but tolerable pain that will occasionally intensify. For others, however, lumbar degenerative disc disease can cause severe pain. Treatment for pain caused by degenerative disc disease can include medication, spinal injections and physical therapy such as osteopathy. In a very small percentage of patients back surgery may be required if the pain is severe and causes an inability to participate in everyday activities. Most of the symptoms experienced in DDD are from the structures surrounding the disc rather than the disc itself.
The increased pressure on the spinal joints may be felt as anything from a mild nagging ache to sharp severe pains. It is common to feel stiffness in the back as the altered mechanics impede the vertebra’s ability to move freely. The decreased space for the spinal nerve may lead to pain or pins & needles or numbness in the arms or legs.
One common condition associated with this decreased space is Stenosis. The symptoms of stenosis are characterised by pains in the legs when walking which relieve when the patient sits down and leans forward. Muscles will also be tight as they pull on the spine like guy ropes on a tent pole to try and stabilise the upright posture as the discs become less efficient at bearing load.
Stay active to slow the disc degeneration. Exercise not only preserves what functionality exists, it is one of the best ways of healing the back. Exercise increases the flow of blood and oxygen and other nutrients to the back and discs, thereby keeping them hydrated and as pliable as possible. Exercise can also improve one’s sense of well-being by promoting the release of endorphins, a natural pain-reliever and stress reducer.
Osteopathy is beneficial in helping to improve and maintain mobility by improving the range of motion in joints and relaxing tight muscles which will in turn help to reduce pain. Keeping the joints mobile will help to take pressure off sensitive nerves and tissues, maintain a healthy blood flow and reduce muscle tension.
The Luxton Clinic offer Osteopathy in Chinnor. Get in touch with us today if you think you may be suffering with the degenerative disc disease by calling 01844 352200