Degenerative disc Disease refers to the changes that can occur along any area of the spine (cervical, thoracic, lumbar) as you age. This is most common in the lumbar region. It is not exactly a disease but a condition where the intervertebral discs “degenerate,” or lose their flexibility and ability to cushion the spine.

Degenerative disc Disease is the most common cause of low back pain, especially in young adults. While disc degeneration can’t be reversed, there is evidence that exercise and careful management of your back can contribute to better quality of life.

Nonsurgical conservative treatment is the first step to recovery.

Over the counter Anti-Inflammatories and Analgesics help deal with the pain from Degenerative Disc Disease. If these do not work, the physician may prescribe a much stronger dose considering the severity and the longevity of the pain. In many people, an epidural steroid injection is effective to reduce low back pain caused by a herniated disc; one of the associated conditions with DDD.

Physical therapy and exercise are an important part of a Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) treatment plan. The physician may recommend a physical therapist who can chart out a specific exercise plan to help manage degenerative disc disease or DDD.

The degenerative disc disease (DDD) tends to weaken the spine significantly, and hence it is essential that exercises are done to strengthen the back, neck, and core muscles. They will then support the spine better, and also reduce the pain.

Physical therapy includes both passive and active treatments. Passive treatments help relax the body. Most often, the exercise regime starts with passive soon after the pain is felt to help the body heal and adjust to the pain. However, the ultimate goal of physical therapy is to get better and progress to active treatments. These are therapeutic exercises that strengthen the body so that the spine has better support.

Passive Physical Therapy Treatments For Degenerative Disc Disease:

  • Deep tissue massage: This technique targets spasms and chronic muscle tension that perhaps builds up through stress. The therapist uses direct pressure and friction to try to release the tension in the ligaments, tendons and muscles.
  • Hot and cold therapies: By using heat, the physical therapist seeks to get more blood to the target area because an increased blood flow brings more oxygen and nutrients to that area. Cold therapy, also called cryotherapy, slows circulation, helping to reduce inflammation, muscle spasms, and pain. Using Hot and cold therapies alternatively help relieve pain.
  • Spinal traction: By stretching the back, spinal traction works to ease pain caused by muscle tightness or compressed nerves.

Active Physical Therapy Treatments For Degenerative Disc Disease:

In the active part of physical therapy, various exercises to improve flexibility, strength, core stability, and range of motion (how easily your joints move) is taught. Every physical therapy program is customized, taking into consideration the patient age, health and history.

Degenerative disc disease is irreversible and won’t ever entirely “go away. Hence it is essential you learn about body mechanics, Proper Postures and how to avoid positions that cause pain so that pain can be managed better. Extra weight can worsen pain caused from DDD, and hence it is advisable to lose the extra pounds to manage the pain better.

Alternative therapies like Acupuncture, Yoga and Ayurveda are extremely popular these days and are believed to effectively help relieve pain without any side effects

Most people with DDD won’t need surgery. However, if all other treatment options have failed, the physician may recommend surgery as the last choice.


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