Lumbar Disc Degeneration!! What is it?

Degenerative Disc Disease or DDD as its known in the trade is one of the most common causes of lower back pain, despite its prevalence in society lots of people do not understand the condition.  Here are a few things you should know about Lumbar Degenerative Disc disease.

What is it?

Firstly, it is not a disease and is a natural part of the aging process.
Discs are composed of mostly water but with age they dry out, this process is largely unnoticeable until you get older. Over the years’ people will suffer lots of little microtraumas to the disc from everyday things like lifting, shopping, playing sports and even laughing coughing and sneezing increases the pressure in your discs.  This eventually damages the outer layers of the disc called the annulus, this is when the centre part of the disc called the nucleus pulposus begins to dry out, the disc degenerate and you lose height. This is why with age most if not all people will shrink – when was the last time you saw a 6-foot-tall 80 year old???

Will your symptoms get worse over time?

Not necessarily!! A lot of people when they hear the word degenerate or degenerative will naturally think their pain is going to get worse.  What happens is the more the discs of your lumbar spine (lower back) degenerate, there is less pain – causing structures within the discs that exist thus making the symptoms of degenerative disc disease less painful. However, you have to remember as the discs lose height, stresses and strains will then be placed on other structures such as the facet joints in your lower back and this could also cause some discomfort and/or pain.

Some people can have a more severe showing of DDD on an MRI scan and be in little discomfort and some people can have a relatively minor form of disc degeneration and be in excruciating pain, below are some of the signs and symptoms that are quite common with DDD.

What are the symptoms.

1 Pain is usually related to activity and will usually flare up when active but usually returns to a bearable/acceptable level of discomfort when your activities are ceased.
2 Activities that involve bending, lifting and twisting will usually make the pain worse.
3 Sitting will usually make the pain worse as 3 times, as much pressure is placed on the disc as opposed to you standing.
4 Changing position will usually alleviate the pain.
5 Patients will usually feel better lying on their back with their knees bent – as this position relieves pressure on the discs.

How can you help yourself?

1 If you’re overweight, losing weight will take pressure off your discs and improve your overall health.
2 Avoid sitting for prolonged periods.
3 Take up swimming as this is an excellent non-weight bearing exercise that works all your muscles.   Breast stroke actually places your back into extension taking the strain off your discs whilst improving your core stability.

How The Cheshire Osteopath Can Help?

1 By performing soft tissue or deep massage to loosen the muscles of your lower back, which will take pressure off your discs.
2 Perform articulation and manipulation techniques on your lower back and other areas to help with the function of the full spine, thus taking pressure off your lower back and discs.
3 The Cheshire Osteopath is specifically trained in Ergonomics and will offer advice on desk based posture.
4 Offer exercise and stretching advice.

By John Corfield (M.Ost) ‘Master of Osteopathy’