Posted on October 24, 2018
Living with Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease
Are you trying to live with the pain of lumbar degenerative disc disease? As the aging process advances, the discs in most people’s spines undergo a degeneration process that will cause a varied loss of strength and mobility. During adolescence, discs receive nutrition from the body’s blood supply. This process concludes once adulthood is attained. During adulthood, by osmosis, nutrition is absorbed into the disc from each of its neighboring vertebrae. As the body continues to age, the process of the disc taking in more fluid is reduced. That’s when the trouble begins.
Eventually, vertebrae cease to provide nutrition to the disc which transforms from a nice soft pliable substance to a more hardened and fibrous character. Through the years, the disc slowly begins to flatten out. The process of a disc becoming more fibrous is what is known as degenerative disc disease and it could happen anywhere from your lower back to your neck.
The spine consists of twenty-four moving vertebrae stacked on top of each other. The vertebrae share this space with a pair of joints that move at each level. The disc is soft and pliable and acts as a shock absorber between vertebrae which allows the joints and spine flexibility.
This is when it starts…
Some type of disc degeneration begins sometime between the age of 30 and 50. Pain usually shows up in the lower back and feels like someone stuck a red-hot flaming sword in your hip. The agony slowly finds its way down through your leg, and may even cause some numbing in your ankle or foot. Flare-ups may only last a few days, diminish and disappear. You may wonder what the big deal was and head to the slopes for a weekend of skiing.
As a disc continues to lose its height, it may protrude slightly away from the back of the spine and push against sensitive nerve roots. The end result is a herniated disc. Sometimes known as a protruding or bulging disc. All three terms accurately describe the condition.
It is this constant nagging assault on the nerve endings that causes the painful sensations to run down through your leg. Pain running from the hip area, down the leg to the ankle and foot is referred to as sciatica. If sciatica is persistent and the only way you can manage it is with pain medication, it’s time to see an orthopedic surgeon for a medical evaluation.
Now check this out, studies have shown that if we were to take a sample of 100 people over the age of 50, and give them all an MRI or a CT Scan, 85 of them would show some type of degenerative disk disease. So, in that sense, a disc that is losing its flexibility is not really a disease at all but a condition of aging.
Is surgery necessary?
You’ll be happy to know that surgery is the last resort for lumbar DDD. In fact, your surgeon is probably the last person you will see in the chain of command. Surgery is only considered after all other options have been excluded. Only 5-10% of those who are diagnosed with degenerative disc disease need surgery. The composition of the disc can never be reversed but the environment surrounding the disc can be helped to slow down the deterioration and relieve the searing pain.
What can a PT do?
At some point in this process, you should see a physical therapist. The challenge of therapy is to treat the muscles and ligaments surrounding the disk, with the goal of decreasing pain and increasing mobility. An accurate assessment of your condition will determine which muscles are bound and which muscles are weak. This data is extremely important for several reasons. Your physical therapist will work to develop the best treatment plan that will meet the challenge of reintroducing flexibility into your muscles and ligaments. It provides physical therapist with a way for which treatment is prescribed. With access to your data, your physical therapist will generate a program unique to your condition.
Now, if you didn’t read anything else in this article, pleased consider the following advice as it is not only based on sound research but personal experience as well. The success of your healing is all up to you. If you have 3 physical therapy sessions a week, then you need to attend all three. Your physical therapist will reduce the number of sessions as your condition improves. When your physical therapist compassionately explains that you need to do your physical therapy exercises two times every day, then you need to do them two times a day. Especially when or if surgery is involved. Still, yet, it begs to wonder if surgery would ever have been needed if some form of physical therapy had been introduced early on. Strengthening the muscles and ligaments that support the spine often provide much-needed relief from pain. Your physical therapist will teach you stretching exercises specific to the affected area. You will also learn core-strengthening exercises. Core muscles are strengthened. Through massage and manipulation, irritated nerve endings begin to calm down. Tissue inflammation will have a chance to cool down also.
Knowledge and experience offer you the power and tools to successfully navigate your way to a pain-free lifestyle. But your healing is conditioned on whether or not you follow the advice of your physical therapist.