Disc Degeneration Disease
It is not really a disease at all but rather a degenerative condition that at times can produce pain from a degenerative disc. It is actually a part of ageing and overtime all people will exhibit changes in their discs consistent with a greater or lesser degree degeneration. Basically it is wear and tear of the discs. As we get older the hydration within the discs tends to leave and you end up with a drier disc.
Many practitioner believe that disc disease is a common cause of low back pain and neck pain. Low back pain is common. The main cause for low back pain is a strain of the muscles ,ligaments or tendons connected to the back bone. Sometimes it is the cushion between the bones which is strained and which bulges out and presses on the nearby nerves (as in sciatica).
Moderate exercise ,lifestyle modifications and good nutrition can help prevent painful and disability symptoms. Try to avoid constipation, cough ,cold, gas as they worsen the condition.
The treatment approach generally focuses on taking away the inflammation from around the disc and stretching and strengthening the appropriate muscles through exercise. When symptoms are persistent despite these exercises then epidural steroid injections will help. It is not going to put hydration back and nor will change the tear within the disc.
Then what it will do?
It will reset the inflammatory clock back to zero.
Important points :-
-1Tbs of honey with warm water in morning and evening reduces the inflammation.
-Heat application- A heating pad can relax muscles or joints around the degenerative disc that have tightened up. Applying heat will warm up the lower back muscles ,make stretching and exercise easier and decreasing the chance of injury.
-Patients can also take advantage of alternative therapies like massage therapy, acupuncture etc. Often patients find that a combination of therapies work well such as massage therapy , heat application, medicines, exercise etc.
-Once pain is adequately controlled (it will most likely not go away completely) the most important thing patients can do is stay active .
Exercise – Once the pain is under control and reduced to more tolerable level patient can do exercise to improve the longer term course of degenerative disc disease.
It will increase the flow of blood and oxygen and other nutrients to the back and discs and thereby keeping them hydrated as possible. 30 minutes exercise like walking, biking or swimming can maintain flexibility and mobility as well as control weight. For those who are in too much pain to tolerate much exercise a gentle approach is best.
Correcting posture and using low back support – Sitting upright in an ergonomic chair that provides low back support for the natural curve in the lumbar region can prevent irritating disc. Use good posture to relieve pressure on your lower back.
Changing positions often relieves stress and increases blood flow. Just standing and walking 10 paces every 20 or 30 minutes is enough to prevent low back stiffness from sitting.
Sleep on comfortable and supportive mattress- We spend at least 1/3 rd of our lives in bed. Therefore sleeping in a proper bed is extremely important in maintaining the health of the neck and spine.
A healthy diet plays a big role in moderating the low back pain. Patients can achieve both hydration and oxygenation with small changes such as
a)Hydration can be improved by sipping water throughout the day as well as reducing use of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and soda etc.
b)Alcohol use should be minimized. Alcohol decreases hydration.
c)Smoking should be avoided as it interferes with nutrition for the spinal discs by preventing the good oxygen flow needed to keep them healthy.
Sun therapy – Hot sun rays perform like a miracle in relaxing tight muscles , tendons and ligaments. This is especially true during cold weather. The sunlight is also a good way to increase vitamin D level during the winter when it tends to be lower.
Massage therapy – Massage helps in increasing the flow of blood , oxygen, nutrients etc in that area, But deep massage can also make the condition worse when excessive pressure causes further damage to the already injured tissues.
Ultrasound – This is a very gentle process that sends heat to the area of the degenerative disc disease. The heat stimulates blood flow. Allowing for more significant movement and less stiffness. That reduces pain.
Role of diet-
While there is no special diet for DDD , Maintaining a healthy weight by following a balanced diet may help prevent added stress to the spine. If you need to lose weight ,decreasing your daily intake by 250 calories to 500 calories in a day can help you lose ½ pound to 1 pound in a week. Rest of diet should be nutrient rich ( fruits ,vegetables, whole grains ,low fat dairy foods and lean sources of protein such as poultry, seafood, beans). Get enough fibrous foods to avoid constipation.
Eat a high protein diet. It consists primarily of animal protein, red meat, fish, sea food.
Highly alkaline diet with at least 80% raw foods can go a long way in helping arrest chronic inflammation and tissue degradation.
NOTE – Scientist have discovered that high BP and high cholesterol also affect the arteries carrying blood and other nutrients to the discs of spine. Eating heart healthy foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon ,walnuts ,flax seeds and having a diet rich in whole grains ,beans and nuts will improve the health of your spine by improving your blood pressure.
Most patients find that they can keep the pain to a tolerable level and continue to enjoy their activities without undergoing any surgery by following these above tips.
Dr. Suman Setia BAMS DNHE PGDHHM