If you’ve been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, you may not need to think about surgery just yet — or perhaps ever. Instead, your immediate goal should be twofold: (1) to identify ways to manage your pain whenever it flares, and (2) to take proactive steps to reduce the frequency and severity of your painful episodes. You may be able to achieve both by making some relatively simple changes in your daily routine.
Living comfortably with degenerative disc disease
Many people find that they are able to effectively manage their degenerative disc disease pain with some lifestyle improvements. For instance, you might try:
- Staying active. Regular exercise can strengthen the muscles that support your spine and, in turn, help you maintain your spinal flexibility. Additionally, physical activity will promote the delivery of blood, oxygen and other healing nutrients to tissues surrounding your damaged discs. Finally, each vigorous workout will stimulate the release of endorphins, your body’s natural pain-relieving hormones.
- Protecting your spine. Oftentimes, degenerative disc disease pain worsens with extended sitting, which typically leads to slouching. Be sure to sit up straight, support your lower back with a pillow or ergonomic chair and take frequent breaks to stand and walk around. Also, learn and use proper lifting techniques (or, better yet, avoid heavy lifting entirely) and sleep on a comfortable mattress that supports the natural curvature of your spine.
- Maintaining proper hydration. If you are dehydrated, the muscles the support your neck and back can become stiff and sore, and stiff muscles can lead to painful spasms. Sip water throughout the day, especially during and after physical activity, and reduce (or eliminate) your consumption of caffeinated drinks, such as soda and coffee and alcoholic beverages.
- Quitting smoking. Tobacco use can damage the vascular structures in your spine and reduce the delivery of essential oxygen to the surrounding tissues. In fact, many studies have linked neck and back pain with smoking history.
Surgery for severe degenerative disc disease symptoms
If your symptoms persist or worsen despite your positive lifestyle changes, you might begin to explore surgical degenerative disc disease treatment. The minimally invasive outpatient surgery performed by the surgeons at USA Spine Care is often clinically appropriate and provides many advantages versus open neck or back surgery.^ If you are interested, contact us to request a free MRI review.* Our team can go over your options with you and determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery.
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