Thanksgiving Back Pain


Over Did It or Degenerative Disc Disease?

Following a big event, like Thanksgiving, it’s not unusual to be a little sore the next day. It can be difficult to tell if your aching back is caused by frantic house cleaning, hours of cooking or hauling that huge turkey out of the oven. You may have over done it, or you may have a more serious condition.  In today’s post we discuss Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD), what causes it, its symptoms, and treatment options.

degenerative disc disease

Throughout your life, your spine suffers wear and tear from years of heavy lifting, bending over, and a wide range of twisting motions.

While not everyone with a sore back suffers from degenerative disc disease, it is estimated that over 30% of people between the ages of 30-50 will experience some degree of disc degeneration. That means if you live long enough, you’re more than likely to exhibit symptoms of degenerative disc disease.

The 5 Factors that Can Increase Chances of DDD

1. Increased Age

It’s s simple fact of life, the older you get, the more your discs wear. However, there is good news – pain associated with DDD does not get worse with age. In act, the effected disc often stabilizes and pain may decrease after about three months.

2. Family History of Degenerative Disc Disease

If your family members have DDD, your will have a higher chance of developing it, no matter your age.

3. High Risk Occupations

While a car accidents, slips and falls can cause spine injury, there are certain occupations like construction jobs, moving, and landscaping that have an increased risk of developing Degenerative Disc Disease.

4. Smoking

Usually we think of smoking as being bad for the lungs, but it also affects your spine. Nicotine robs the discs of essential nutrients. Carbon monoxide in the blood stream and keeps the discs from absorbing the nutrients they need. As the discs become weaker, they become more likely to degenerate. Smokers also cough a lot. Coughing puts pressure on the spine and can lead to ruptured discs.

5. Obesity

Carrying extra weight puts extra strain on your spine. Additionally, if you’re obese, it’s hard to be active, which can contribute to the development of Degenerative Disc Disease.

So how do you know if you have DDD?

Degenerative Disc Disease usually causes lower back, neck and hip pain as well as an aching or burning pain that runs down the buttocks and into the thighs. The pain can be caused by specific activities, such as bending, lifting and twisting. Sometimes walking, changing positions or lying down can help to reduce it. For some people, the pain is excruciating and unrelenting, while others suffer temporary discomfort that goes away within a few hours or days.

Regular exercise is an important part of reducing the pain associated with DDD, although, if you are just starting out, you should speak with your doctor about what exercises are best for you. Non-cardio exercises like Pilates, yoga, stretching, and core strengthening can help strengthen the abdominal and back muscles that support your spine.

Minimally Invasive Surgical Techniques

The good news is that usually the pain from DDD settles itself without the need for surgery. However, if surgery is necessary, it will likely be one of the following types:

Minimally Invasive Discectomy

If the disc tears or bursts, sometimes the soft portion in the middle squirts out to put pressure on the nerves surrounding it. This is called a “herniated disc”. This can cause pain in the buttocks or thighs, commonly known as sciatica. A discectomy is the process of removing the burst disc that is causing the pain.

Minimally Invasive Laminectomy

Sometimes pressure, often caused by overgrowth of the facet joints related to arthritis, can cause pain in the spine. A laminectomy removes the back portion of vertebra—the lamina—and creates more space, relieving pressure on the spine or nerves.

Minimally Invasive Fusion

This surgery usually involves making a small incision through the patient’s back. With a minimally invasive fusion, the ruptured disc is removed to alleviate pressure and then we use metal screws, rods and bone grafts to fuse the spine. With some patients, it’s necessary to fuse the spine through the abdomen and others will need surgery both through the front and the back.

Cervical Total Disc Replacement

Using this procedure, we remove the damaged disc and replace it with an artificial disc. A cervical disc replacement is similar to that of spinal fusion, but, instead of fusing the spine, a metal disc is inserted and attached to the vertebra above and below the damaged disc. This allows for normal range of motion of the cervical spine, and takes the pressure off of the discs above and below.

When to Visit Disc of Louisiana

Sometimes, even with regular activity and core strengthening exercises, the pain can get to be too much.

If you find that nothing is working, that you’re struggling to move or that your quality of life is being affected, it’s probably a good idea to come in for a consultation. Non-surgical treatments include activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, heat or ice treatment, specific core strengthening exercises and epidural steroid injections.

Degenerative Disc Disease can affect anyone, but it’s important to remember you have many treatment options. If you have questions about minimally invasive spinal treatments, please schedule an appointment today.

A board certified, fellowship trained spine specialist will meet with you personally to explain the cause your pain, as well as your treatment options.

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