More Than A Back Pain

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With age brings new aches and discomfort. However, intense, intermittent back pain should not be ignored. Chances are the pain could be degenerative disc disease, a potentially serious spinal condition. Recent statistics estimate about 30% of Americans 40 and over have the condition. Luckily, there are early symptoms to look out for and ways to treat the disease.

The origin of degenerative disc disease

The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. Between each vertebra are discs that allow for flexibility and act as shock absorbers. Over time, especially due to wear and tear, these discs break down. As there is no blood supply to the area, the discs can’t regenerate. The result causes pain that affects simple daily functions. Degenerative disc disease is not a disease in the traditional sense but more a form of arthritis. Luckily, there are 4 early warning signs to signal a trip to the doctor may be needed.

1.Painful sitting or standing

Persons with the condition will soon be unable to stand or sit for long periods. Both standing and sitting places pressure on vertebrae discs. Degenerating discs can no longer take the pressure and need temporary relief as often as possible.

2. Walking it off

Persons with possible degenerative disc disease can find more back relief when walking rather than stationary. Walking allows the spine and discs to be flexible. This also releases the load from staying still for long periods at a time. Try taking a walk when experiencing lower back pain. If the pain subsides, consult a doctor for a possible degenerative disc.

3. Going numb

A numb feeling in the fingers, arms, and legs is another serious warning sign. A series of nerves run through the spinal column. The discs degrade to the point of pressing on surrounding nerves. That pressure causes a tingling or numbing feeling in the extremities and should be a sign to visit the doctor.

4. Coming and going

Intermittent pain is of the most common signs of disc damage. A sharp, intense pain comes and sticks around for a prolonged time, then goes away. These pain spikes can be either in the lower back or neck. Unfortunately, this cycle could happen over weeks or months.

Getting those discs under control

The pain that comes with degenerative discs may require some help. Doctors often suggest a range of treatment options based on the degree of pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, help deal with intense, short-term pain. Hot and cold therapy can be applied with NSAIDs to improve effectiveness. For long-term relief, establishing a healthy exercise routine like yoga can improve the pliability of spinal discs. If all else fails, doctors will suggest surgery, either through fusion surgery or disc replacement surgery.

Treat your warning signs early

Back and spinal pain will affect 80% of Americans, over a lifetime. Degenerative disc disease can be treated if the warning signs are not ignored. Although discs will become weaker with age, this should not stop mobility. For any signs of pain, consult a doctor or spinal specialist. Doctors can then assess the damage to discs and advise on the most effective treatment options.

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Board Certified, Fellowship Trained Spine Surgeon

Dwight Tyndall, MD, FAAOS

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