Can Degenerative Disc Disease Be Prevented?

Degenerative disc disease is a good news/bad news story. The bad news? Your discs will deteriorate as you get older. But that’s offset by the good news that you can slow down that process and prevent painful back problems.

Many people seek the help of Richard B. Kim, MD after they develop back pain. Though Dr. Kim does an exceptional job of treating back problems, he also works closely with patients who want to prevent back pain as they face the inevitable process of disc degeneration.

About degenerative disc disease

The discs between your spinal vertebrae are designed to absorb shock, stabilize your spine, and support movement. They do a great job thanks to their structure, which consists of an inner gel-like core enclosed in tough, fibrous tissue.

Over the years, however, your discs gradually lose moisture, the outer layer wears thin, and they start to flatten. This process, called degenerative disc disease, occurs at a different pace for each person.

You can’t completely stop disc deterioration. But you can slow down degenerative disc disease and prevent the painful problems caused by the problem, such as pinched nerves, facet joint arthritis, herniated discs, bone spurs, and spinal stenosis.

Here’s a list of lifestyle changes that can help you prevent degenerative disc disease.

Get regular exercise

To prevent degenerative disc disease, you need to keep your back strong and flexible. The next three tips can help.

Take regular walks

You can do a lot for your back (and your general health) by taking regular walks. A brisk walk gives your spine muscles a good workout. The movement also boosts circulation in your spine, which goes a long way toward maintaining healthy discs.

Exercise your core

You can keep your back strong with floor exercises that target the muscles supporting your spine. There are many exercises you can do at home, such as side leg lifts and the superman move.

If you haven’t exercised in a while, or you already have back pain, be sure to talk with us before starting an exercise regimen.

Stretch your spine

You can improve mobility and reduce stress on your spinal discs with gentle exercises that stretch the spine’s muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Stretching also allows healing nutrients and oxygen to reach your discs, helping them to heal and stay healthy.

Pay attention to posture and form

Maintaining good posture is essential. Whether you’re sitting, walking, or lifting, poor posture puts an incredible amount of pressure on your spine. That extra pressure accelerates degenerative disc disease.

Your spinal vertebrae have a natural curvature and alignment that offload pressure, ensure proper movement, and support spine strength. Good posture supports your spine’s alignment, while bad posture throws it out of balance.

You should also follow good ergonomic form when working at a computer or lifting heavy objects. Keep the computer monitor at eye level and the keyboard in a position where you don’t need to bend your wrists. 

When lifting, the key is to bend your knees, keep your back straight, and never twist when lifting. If you bend at the waist, your spine is forced to bear the weight of the heavy item, as well as your body weight. Twisting strains the muscles and boosts disc degeneration and herniation.

Reach and maintain a healthy weight

You can add degenerative disc disease to the problems caused by being overweight and obese. Your spine supports the weight of your upper body, and as you gain weight, the pressure on your spinal discs increases.

Excess weight also forces your spine to change its natural alignment to compensate for the extra stress. This in turn places more pressure on your discs and contributes to degenerative disc disease.

Though losing weight is never easy, it comes down to two lifestyle basics. You need to eat fewer calories than your body burns and boost fat burning with regular exercise.

Stop smoking

It may sound like a stretch to say that cigarette smoking causes degenerative disc disease, yet there’s a direct link between the two. Nicotine reduces the production of the gel-like cells that cushion your vertebrae. Smoking also interferes with blood vessels, reducing the supply of nutrients to the discs.

Whether you already have back pain or you want to lower your risk of degenerative disc disease, we can help. Call Richard B. Kim, MD, or connect with us using the online booking feature.

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