Degenerative Disc Disease: A gradual onset of pain characterizes degenerative disc disease. This condition occurs when the fibrous capsule surrounding the jelly-like cushions between spinal vertebrae thickens, causing the gel to bulge out of the discs.
Reasons for Intervertebral Disc Breakdown: The most common cause of disc breakdown is age-related height loss as people get older. However, other factors contribute to disc deterioration and painful symptoms, including heredity (the condition running in families), repetitive heavy lifting, smoking (which deprives tissues of oxygen), poor hydration, osteoarthritis (wear and tear on spinal facet joints), and obesity.
Treatments for Pain Relief: To address degenerative disc disease, various pain-relieving treatments are available. Spine specialists utilize advanced imaging techniques to examine the spine and gather information about the patient’s symptoms, especially regarding the onset, alleviation, and intensity of pain. Physical examination and medical history are also crucial in the evaluation.
- Pain-relieving medications: Over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen help reduce pain and inflammation associated with disc disease. Stronger prescription pain medication, monitored by medical professionals, may be necessary, as well as muscle relaxants for some individuals. Epidural injections with anesthetic and anti-inflammatory corticosteroids can be effective, particularly for lumbar spine pain.
- Rest and activity modification: Managing pain and inflammation involves resting from strenuous activities and sports. Walking and swimming can strengthen the musculoskeletal system and improve overall circulation. Staying hydrated and maintaining a healthy diet helps hydrate the discs and control weight. Quitting smoking is crucial since cigarettes harm circulation and hinder the body’s natural healing process.
- Occupational and physical therapy: Therapists assess muscular strength, pain levels, range of motion, and other factors during an in-office evaluation. The treatment plan focuses on enhancing flexibility and muscular strength, possibly involving bracing, assistive devices, massage, and other modalities.
- Surgery: While surgery is not the initial approach for relieving back pain, it may be necessary if conservative treatments prove ineffective. Surgery can address deformities and nerve impingement associated with chronic back problems like degenerative disc disease. Spinal fusion, where one or more bony vertebrae are joined to limit movement and strengthen the spinal column, is a common surgical intervention. Other surgeries include discectomy (removal of damaged intervertebral disc) and bone grafting with a cage installation for spinal column support and control of movement.
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