Degenerative Disc Disease is something that is very common. As people get older they experience some symptoms but, certain cases are worse than others. Allen Naylor is someone that suffers from this disease personally. He has had seven back surgeries in a matter of ten years of finding out he had the disease. He did receive passive treatment which has the benefits of taking away extreme pain by pain medication that is monitored by a doctor who specializes in back pain.
Although this treatment works for the time being it does not have long lasting benefits.
It is extremely painful for those who have DDD severely, and unfortunately he did. To this day, he still suffers from this disease and has a shifted life due to the things that he can and cannot do with his condition. This disease affects many people around the world, which is why finding the right treatment is important to help battle this disease. What the disease does is harsh.
It attacks the cushions in-between your spinal cord. These cushions act as shock absorbers between the bones of the spine (Cedars Sinai).
Once a disc is injured the damaged is unchangeable. The discs itself cannot repair themselves without some kind of treatment (Cedar-Sinai). There are many changes in the back that can result to this break down of the discs such Osteoarthritis which is the breakdown of tissue that protects the joints(WebMd). There is also Herniated discs which is an abnormal bulge or breaking of a spinal disc. Finally there is Spinal stenosis which is the narrowing of the spinal canal which is what hold your spinal cord into place (webMD).
The older we get the more our body begins to show wear and tear from the experience we have had in life. This disease can also be used as a term for this. Some of the causes can consist of the fact that our disc start with being 80% water and the older we get the more they dry out causing them to not absorb shock as well (Cedar-Sinai). This also makes them less flexible making it harder to move around. Obviously there are people who are more prone to this depending on if they are over-weight, if there job entitles hard labor, or even if there heavy smokers (WebMD).
As the cushions in-between the vertebrae lessen in size, the spine becomes less stable. The body reacts to this by building bone spurs. This has its pitfall as well by putting pressure on the spinal nerve roots or spinal cord in general resulting in pain and affecting nerve function (WebMD). This disease has a higher percentage of affecting men than it does women which is why men should be more cautious when they reach the age of 30 (medicine). This disease normally happens in older people, it is rare to affect someone under that age of 30.
This is also something that is genetic meaning that if someone in your family has had this in the past, you have the possible of inheriting this disease (USCuniversity). The symptoms of this disease can very between pain in the lower back, thighs, buttocks, or neck depending on which discs are aggravated. If the pain worsens when you are lifting, bending, or twisting, this is a big sign that you could have DDD. Also if you go through periods of severe pain and then the pain releases after a few days, this is also a symptom. Lastly there is weakness in the legs, numbness or tingling into the legs.
If the pain of your back or neck lessens if you are lying down or changing positions this is an indication that your discs are injured (USCuniversity). The treatment is split up into two different categories. First, there is physical therapy and exercises that strengthen and stretch the back. This is usually the type of treatment they will begin with when discovering that the persons back has signs of DDD. This would be ideal for someone with lower amounts of pain and flare ups that seem to come and go. The second form of treatment is surgery.
This would only be for certain cases that the person has chronic, reoccurring pain. Normally this treatment is not suggested in less the pain continues for six more months after the first set of non-surgical treatments are done. Both of these treatments have many different ways of helping the person regain the ability to move with normal everyday functions. Physical therapy is an ideal treatment for degenerative disc disease because it doesn’t involve any type of surgery. There are multiple treatments that a person can do for themself or have done for them.
They are spilt up into active (which a person does on their own) and passive (has done for them) treatments. Active treatments include exercise, quitting smoking, weight loss, and ergonomics. Exercise is used on most all patients to help with the long term healing and repair on ones back. This would include low impact aerobic exercise, strengthening, and stretching. With the combination of all three, the chances of healing on its own are very high. Quitting smoking is important because it helps increase blood flow, which is significant to helping heal. Another option is weight loss.
A larger person may put more stress on the disks because of the access weight. The last active treatment is ergonomics. This includes using the right type of shoes to help improve posture. Passive treatments comprise of different types of pain medication, chiropractic and massage therapy, and ultrasound. The use of pain medication can have positive and negative effects on a person. It could greatly improve a person’s pain level for the time being, but doesn’t correct the problem. The use of narcotic type pain medications leads to the risk of addiction and dependency on the drug itself.
Chiropractic and massage therapy are both great ways to help with degenerative disc disease. It is thought that by manually moving the back and body in different ways, it will help relief pressure points and release endorphins in one’s body. This usually helps with most cases but not all. Ultrasound treatments are used to help heat up and warm the back to increase the blood flow to promote healing. Both active and passive treatments may help a person, but if not, surgery will be required. Lastly, there is a treatment that is not yet popular. It is referred to as disc fusion.
This is used in extreme cases of DDD. Most people don’t refer to this treatment due to cost and the fact that it is also still being experimented with. Artificial discs are intended to restore and maintain normal motion in the segments that are damaged. By doing this, it reduces the level of stress that occurs on the discs that are causing aggravation (Journal). In this procedure they will usually only allow one level fusions. It is a rare that they would do a two level fusion (spine-Health). This is usually only done in the upper region of the back and only on sever patients (spine-health).
This treatment does have risk factors such as it can cause stress and increased motion in the segments adjacent to the fused levels this could lead an increase in speed of the disease (Journal). A study done on 304 individuals was done results show that it is effective and safe and also that the surgery either stayed the same or bettered the persons condition (Journal). As this disease becomes more popular, multiple studies are being done to prevent and reduce the pain that DDD has on its patients.
For someone like Allen Naylor, these treatments are crucial to slowing down the process in which the discs reakdown. With all this being said, degenerative disc disease is something that should stay in the spotlight with people who have chronic back pain. The more that is learned about DDD, the better we can treat those who have it. Knowing the symptoms beforehand can help prevent further deconstruction of the discs. Doing things such as taking care of one’s body by doing stretches and strengthening exercises, quitting smoking and weight loss can do a number of positive things to help battle this disease on their own.
If these things don’t work, then surgery will be required. These surgeries, such as disc fusion and muscle treatments, are only for extreme cases. Even after a person has the procedure done, it doesn’t guarantee that one’s back and spine will be cured. In conclusion, this disease isn’t something to play around with. We need to take a serious look into the treatments that are used to help cure the problem. Knowing is the best thing that can be done to help battle this disease. Prevention is the key.