Degenerative disc disease is mainly an age-related condition. As we get older, our bodies naturally dry out and lose water content. For our spinal discs, which help to cushion the spine and allow for flexibility, this means loss of elasticity and increased brittleness.
This condition is basically degenerative disc disease and is the underlying cause of many cases of bulging and herniated discs, as well as loss of spinal disc height. Degenerative disc disease can cause a range of painful symptoms, including neck pain and back pain, but it is possible to have a good quality of life if you have this condition.
While it’s not possible to turn back the clock on aging, you can identify additional risk factors that accelerate the development of degenerative disc disease. This can not only lower your likelihood of developing symptomatic degenerative disc disease, but it can also help with managing it if you have been diagnosed.
The following five risk factors are the most significant that can contribute to spinal disc degeneration outside of aging. If you’d like to learn more or you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our caring and dedicated team.
1. Carrying extra weight
By supporting the upper body and holding us upright, the spine has to withstand tremendous pressure on a daily basis. Although the parts of the spine, including the vertebrae, spinal discs, and facet joints, are very strong, they do wear out over time. One of the best ways to slow down the rate of disc degeneration is to reduce the weight being placed on the spine every day.
Being overweight adds to the stress on the spinal discs, which over time, can become a significant risk factor for degenerative disc disease. By working to maintain a healthy weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise, you can promote long-term spinal disc health. Even in cases of degenerative disc disease that are already causing neck pain or back pain, weight management can help with both pain relief and slowing down the progress of disc degeneration.
2. A sedentary lifestyle
Independent of its association with obesity, being overly sedentary is a degenerative disc disease risk factor for a number of reasons.
First, exercise can build stronger supporting muscles, which help to relieve stress on spinal discs. Second, exercise also helps improve blood flow to the discs, which receive less nutrient-rich blood than other areas.
By staying as active as possible, patients can slow down these factors that reduce spinal disc health.
3. Posture and body mechanics
Our daily movements and posture play a big role in how much stress and wear the spinal discs endure. Poor posture results in uneven stress on the spine, putting excess pressure on certain discs that can cause them to wear out more quickly.
Additionally, mechanical imbalances can also speed up disc degeneration, particularly among people who work a physical job or regularly engage in athletic activities. By working with a trainer or physical therapist, you can learn how to focus on proper posture and movement throughout the day.
4. Poor nutrition and tobacco use
What you put into your body can have a significant effect on your spinal discs. Not only does healthy eating help manage weight, but good nutrition can help your discs in other important ways. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of protein and micronutrients can help build muscle, including the neck and back muscles that support the spine and discs. Additionally, avoiding inflammatory foods such as processed sugar, grains and fats can help relieve pain and inflammation associated with nerve compression.
Tobacco use is also associated with poor disc health along with the dangerous effects it has on the heart and lungs. By decreasing the already low blood supply to the discs, tobacco use can speed up disc degeneration. This is why smokers and other tobacco users with degenerative disc disease are always encouraged to quit.
Effective treatment for degenerative disc disease
To learn more about treatment for degenerative disc disease, from pain management to minimally invasive spine surgery, get in touch with the experienced team at BEST Health System today. Our experts are dedicated to patient-centered, personalized care that helps each person reach their treatment goals. Degenerative disc disease should not keep you on the sidelines of your life — we can help you get back to the people and activities you love.