Degenerative disc disease treatment is almost always non-operative. While the condition is not reversible, it can be treated successfully with interventions such as carefully selected core strength training and stretching exercises. Time, rest, anti-inflammatories, and heat / ice can also help to mitigate symptoms and are effective adjuncts to treatment. In most cases of degenerative disc disease, symptoms arise if the effects of disc damage create pressure on the spinal cord or a spinal nerve root however the discs themselves can be pain-generators even if a nerve is not compressed. A natural consequence of aging, degenerative disc disease causes the spinal discs to become smaller, drier, less flexible and more susceptible to cracks and other damage over time. These normally soft, compressible cushions serve the important role of absorbing shock from the spinal bones as the body flexes, bends, and twists through a wide range of motion. When more extensively damaged, the discs become less effective at cushioning the spinal bones, which can lead to bone-on-bone contact, as well as disc problems like bulging and herniation. All of these conditions can potentially result in painful nerve compression in the spine. Everyone is unique, so what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. Most people are able to achieve sufficient relief from degenerative disc disease symptoms with a combination of nonsurgical approaches including physical therapy. In more moderate to severe cases treatment often requires specialist consultation and structured interventions. As you try different techniques, be sure to rely on the advice and guidance of your physical therapist, who is your best source of personalized information. As you begin treatment, here are some general guidelines to follow. Protect your spine – repetitive stress can worsen both the rate of disc degeneration and your overall discomfort. Think about the movements you make every day and how you can change your routine to lessen the impact on your neck and back. Most importantly, if a certain activity causes you pain, you should avoid or otherwise modify it. Stay active – Even though it might seem counter-intuitive, moving about can actually improve your spinal comfort. For instance, a simple, low-impact exercise like cycling or light walking, can be done just about anywhere, have been shown to be an effective component in the physical therapy of several spinal disorders. Keep an open mind – If you are interested, you might try one or more complementary or alternative treatment approaches, such as acupuncture, nutritional supplements, yoga, massage, chiropractic care, or meditation. Some patients find them to be highly beneficial. For the majority of patients, a few weeks or months of conservative physical therapy to address their degenerative disc disease treatment is all that is needed. In rare cases that are resistant to conservative interventions surgery may be recommended to treat severe pain.
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