Degenerative disc disease is the gradual wearing down of the discs that provide a cushion between your spine's bones. Affected discs become thinner and weaker; their internal contents sometimes leak and push on the nearby nerves, causing pain.
Depending on your lifestyle and genetics, degenerative disc disease can start as early as your 20s. One study of adults under 65 found that about 30% showed signs of degenerative disc disease. By 80, almost everyone has some degree of damage to their discs.
Do you suspect degenerative disc disease? Keep reading to learn what Dr. Bonaventure Ngu — our expert at Premier Spine Institute in The Woodlands, Humble, and Baytown, Texas — says about the non-surgical treatments for degenerative disc disease.
Some degenerative disc disease symptoms include inflammation, swelling, and pain. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can help combat these symptoms.
Most people suffer some damage to their discs due to sitting a lot or poor muscle development in their back.
Physical therapy increases your activity and improves your posture, lowering the pressure on your back, improving your muscle mass, and ensuring that some muscles don’t overcompensate for others.
Poor blood flow is one of the reasons discs weaken. Several things can cause inadequate blood flow, including cigarettes, excessive caffeine consumption, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Massaging the area improves blood flow quickly and enables more nutrients and oxygen to reach the discs.
When discs leak, they can irritate the nearby nerve by putting pressure on it. Epidural steroid injections are an excellent solution for the long-term relief of pain caused by a pinched nerve in your back. Epidural steroid injections block the nerve's pain signals for about three months.
Fighting inflammation is key when suffering from degenerative disc disease. One of the ways you can decrease your inflammation levels is to aim for a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
For example, almond milk has a 2008:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, making it a very high source of omega-6, which increases your inflammatory response.
With radiofrequency neurotomy, Dr. Ngu inserts a thin needle into your back, delivering radiofrequency energy that gently heats and destroys a problematic nerve causing pain. He performs the treatment while you’re under anesthesia to keep you comfortable.
Treatments for degenerative disc disease work best if they specifically address your risk factors and unique needs. For example, someone with a desk job and someone with nutritional deficiencies and smokes may benefit from different approaches.
Contact Dr. Ngu to find the best route for managing your degenerative disc disease.