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What does it mean to have a degenerative spine?

A degenerative spine is an age-related condition that develops as the spinal discs, vertebrae, muscles, cartilage and ligaments naturally deteriorate over time. The reasons for this deterioration may be easier to understand when you consider the amount of stress placed on your spine as it continually bends, twists and moves while supporting the full weight of your body. Even during routine daily activities, your spine endures significant stress.

Although a degenerative spine is considered to be “natural,” it can cause varying degrees of discomfort and therefore shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’ve been diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition, it’s probably because you consulted with a physician after noticing pain, muscle weakness, numbness or tingling sensations in your neck, back, arms or legs. But, as your physician likely explained, you don’t have to resign yourself to a lifetime of pain or immediately schedule a surgical procedure. There may be other ways to cope.

How to live comfortably with a degenerative spine

Many people are pleasantly surprised by the dramatic results they achieve with nonsurgical degenerative spine treatment. Some commonly recommended approaches include:

  • Exercise and physical therapy. Intuitively, it might seem otherwise, but bed rest can actually do more harm than good for a degenerative spine. Through regular physical activity, it is often possible to strengthen the muscles that support the spine, enhance spinal flexibility and lose excess body weight, all of which can relieve painful pressure and alleviate symptoms.
  • Pain medications. Over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce the inflammation associated with a degenerative spine, often to the point that a patient feels comfortable enough to begin physical therapy. Localized cortisone injections can be helpful as well.
  • Lifestyle improvements. Some simple habits, such as wearing supportive footwear, practicing good posture, taking breaks from extended sitting and avoiding heavy lifting, can eventually lead to lasting relief and protect the spine from further damage.

When does degenerative spine surgery come into play?

As a general rule of thumb, if severe discomfort persists after several weeks or months of nonsurgical treatment, surgery may be an appropriate next step. If you’ve reached this point, you may still have options. For instance, USA Spine Care takes a minimally invasive approach to spine surgery. Contact us to find out how we may be able to help you find relief from your degenerative spine symptoms. We can provide you with a free MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate.

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