Home | Articles | Degenerative Disc Disease

By Dr A Ramaiah Veluri
Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon
Published on 17/11/2022

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a prevalent health problem among the old age group. After the age of 40, many develop some level of spinal degeneration. However, proper treatment can ease pain and improve movement.

Let's have a deep understanding of degenerative disc disease (DDD), including its causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

What is Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)?

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is a medical condition that develops when one or more back discs begin to weaken. It is a chronic condition caused by damage or regular wear and tear.

The spinal discs are between the vertebrae and serve as cushions and shock absorbers. Discs also make it easier to bend, twist, and move around. Over time, this condition could get increasingly worse. Typically, degenerative disc disease causes low-grade chronic pain with sporadic periods of more severe pain.

Let’s understand- what causes Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)?

This condition is often brought on by spinal disc wear and strain. As people age, discs usually dry out, lose support, and stop functioning correctly. Pain and other symptoms may result from it. DDD can manifest in the 30s or 40s and progressively worsen.

What can be the complications of DDD (Degenerative Disc Disease)?

Advanced forms of DDD might result in back osteoarthritis (OA). Because there are no discs to cushion the vertebrae in this type of OA, the vertebrae rub together, causing back pain and stiffness and severely limiting the activities that people may comfortably perform.

Exercise is essential for general health, especially for those suffering from back pain or DDD. Reduced movement or immobility can put persons at risk for:

  • Reduced muscle tone
  • Depression
  • Blood clots in the legs
  • Worsening pain
  • Decreased flexibility in the back

Now the question is- How can DDD be treated?

The treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) include:

Heat or cold therapy

Cold packs can assist in reducing pain caused by a damaged disc, and heat packs can reduce the inflammation that causes the pain.

Over-the-counter medications

Acetaminophen can help relieve DDD pain, and both of these medications may have adverse effects. As a result, individuals must consult the doctor about the best medicine for them.

Prescription pain relievers

When over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicines fail to give relief, patients with DDD may explore prescription pain treatments. People should carefully examine these options because they involve the risk of dependency and should only be taken when the pain is severe.

Physical therapy

A therapist guides patients through exercises to strengthen their back muscles and reduce pain. Individuals may notice pain, posture, and overall mobility improvements over time.

Surgery

Depending on the severity of the condition, the doctor might recommend a spinal fusion or an artificial disc replacement. If the discomfort gets worse, the patient might need surgery. The disc is replaced with a new one made of plastic and metal in an artificial disc replacement. Doctors utilize spinal fusion to permanently unite two or more vertebrae in the spine and eliminate friction between them. One of the few spinal decompression procedures, such as discectomy, foraminotomy, laminectomy, etc., could be used by the surgeon.

How is exercise helpful in preventing DDD (Degenerative Disc Disease)?

Exercise can help with this problem by strengthening the muscles around the injured discs, which works in conjunction with other treatments. Additionally, it might increase blood flow to lessen uncomfortable swelling. Stretching and light yoga poses throughout the day might help with posture and anxiety reduction.

How can people prevent DDD (Degenerative Disc Disease)?

With a lifestyle change, people can stop or slow the progression of spinal degeneration, including:

  • Attaining and maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Quitting or avoiding smoking
  • Exercising regularly to improve flexibility and strength

Conclusion

If DDD (Degenerative Disc Disease) is not treated or handled ineffectively, it may worsen and produce more symptoms. While doctors may recommend surgery for DDD, less invasive therapies and treatments may also be effective and less expensive. Although spinal discs cannot heal independently, various treatments can help people have pain-free, active lives.