Are you concerned about the health of your spine and wondering if you might be at risk for degenerative disc disease? This common condition is notorious for causing back pain, so it’s important to understand your risk factors and take proactive steps to maintain a healthy back.
Below, Dr. John Regan and the team at Spine Group Beverly Hills in Beverly Hills, California, explore the factors that may put you at risk for degenerative disc disease, what you can do to reduce your chances of developing this condition, and what to do if you already have it.
What is degenerative disc disease?
Degenerative disc disease is a condition that affects the intervertebral discs in your spine. The discs are made of:
These discs act as cushions between your vertebrae and provide flexibility and shock absorption.
Over time, they can wear down, lose hydration (particularly the gel-like center), and become less effective at their job of providing shock absorption. This can lead to various symptoms, including chronic back pain, reduced mobility, and sometimes even nerve compression. Nerve compression can cause pain, but it can also cause numbness, tingling, and burning sensations.
Are you at risk for developing degenerative disc disease?
The most common risk factors include:
As you get older, the discs in your spine naturally degenerate. While you can't stop the aging process, you can take steps to minimize its impact on your spine. Stay hydrated, strengthen your core, practice safe lifting techniques, and exercise regularly.
Your genetic makeup can also play a role in your risk for degenerative disc disease. If you have a family history of spine problems, you may be more susceptible. Be sure to inform Dr. Regan of your family history so that he can create a tailored prevention plan.
Occupation and lifestyle
Certain occupations and lifestyles can increase your risk of spine issues, especially degenerative disc disorder. If your job involves heavy lifting, repetitive movements, or prolonged sitting, you may be at a higher risk. Similarly, smoking, poor nutrition, and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to disc degeneration.
Injury and trauma
A history of spinal injuries or trauma can predispose you to degenerative disc disease. Even seemingly minor injuries can accumulate over time and lead to disc degeneration.
Carrying excess weight puts additional stress on your spine and can accelerate disc degeneration. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help reduce this risk.
Reducing your risk
While some risk factors, like aging and genetics, are beyond your control, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of developing degenerative disc disease:
Regular exercise, especially activities that strengthen your core and back muscles, can help support your spine. Exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous for you to reap the benefits. Even gentle walking, swimming, and yoga are good for you.
Maintain a healthy weight
If you're overweight, losing excess pounds can alleviate stress on your spine and reduce your risk. Ideally, staying within around 10 pounds of your goal weight can help alleviate weight-related back strain.
Practice good posture
Be mindful of your posture at all times whether you're sitting at a desk, walking, or lifting objects. Proper body mechanics can protect your spine.
If you smoke, consider quitting. Smoking reduces blood flow to the discs and hinders their ability to repair and stay healthy. The Kick It California smoking cessation program is free and includes telephone, app, and text support.
Staying properly hydrated helps your body function better, and that includes the discs in your back too. Drink plenty of water to keep your intervertebral discs properly hydrated. Aim for at least 64 ounces of water daily.
Seek medical advice for a tailored prevention plan
Understanding the risk factors for degenerative disc disease is the first step in protecting your spine's health, and the second step is to stick with a custom prevention plan.
If you have a family history of degenerative disc disease or are concerned about your risk factors, talk to Dr. Regan. The Spine Group Beverly Hills team offers guidance and recommends preventive measures as well as treatment options if you already have the warning signs of disc issues.
If you already have degenerative disc disease
Even with the best prevention plan, it’s impossible to completely reduce your risk. That’s because some risk factors are outside of your control.
The good news is that degenerative disc disease can be managed. Potential treatments for back pain include lifestyle changes, physical therapy, stretches, medication, and in some cases, surgery to repair compressed nerves or damaged discs.
Questions? Schedule an appointment in our Beverly Hills, California, office by calling 424-238-3281. You can also request an appointment via our online form.