Can degenerative disc disease be prevented?

Most everything in the world has a certain window of time when it functions optimally until wear-and-tear inevitably begins to take its toll. From the car you drive to the body you occupy, manufacturer warranties never last forever.

As the main support structure for your entire musculoskeletal system, your spine is one of the first areas of your body to begin to show the signs of years of use, especially your discs. Here at Northwest Suburban Pain Center, we help our patients in Arlington Heights and South Barrington, Illinois, deal with the effects that degenerative disc disease can have on mobility and quality of life, and we’re often asked whether the disease could have been prevented in the first place.

The answer is yes and no. Read on to find out whether you can prevent, or at least slow down, degenerative disc disease.

Behind the scenes

Before we get into whether or not anything can be done to prevent degenerative disc disease, it’s helpful to step back and take a look at what’s going on inside your body. Your spinal column is made up of 33 vertebrae, which are separated by 23 discs. Your discs are comprised of a tough outer layer that houses a jelly-like substance that provides cushioning between each of your vertebrae.

Now think about what an incredible role these discs play during your every waking moment, and even some of your sleeping ones. Almost every time you move, you engage your spine, which kicks your discs into action. Whether you’re walking to get the newspaper or running a marathon, your discs are hard at work making your life function smoothly.

To keep up with their enormous duties, your discs are in a constant cycle of breakdown and regeneration as your body clears away tired tissue and produces healthier tissue to take its place. Over time however, the wear-and-tear becomes too much, and your body isn’t able to keep up with repairs as it once did.

An ounce of prevention

So, let’s first get to the question of whether or not there are any steps you can take to prevent degenerative disc disease. Technically, there aren’t. There’s nothing you can do to stop aging, or time, and degeneration is part and parcel of both.

That said, there are plenty of things you can do to put off degeneration in your discs, or to slow down the disease once it starts.

Move it or lose it

Your body responds to signals of usage and sends in the appropriate resources when it receives notice that you’re engaging certain areas more than others. One of the best things you can do to stave off disc problems is to use them. Though it may seem contradictory to pile on the wear-and-tear, the fact is that exercise does more good than bad. Moving your spine promotes better circulation, which delivers the oxygen and nutrients your discs need to maintain hydration and health.

Don’t pound it out

Although movement is great for your discs, at the first signs of disc problems, or to prevent them from coming on early, try activities that aren’t concussive. Pounding the pavement translates to pounding the discs in your spine, so you’d be better off mounting up on a bike or hitting the pool instead. These exercises promote circulation and healing without further breaking down your discs.

Around the bend

Another great way to promote and maintain good disc health is through stretching exercises. Anything you do to limber up your spine is time well spent, giving your discs room to operate by releasing muscle tension that bears down on them. Just five minutes of stretching in the morning (touching your toes, twisting, etc.) and five minutes in the evening is all it takes to ward off degenerative disc disease or slow down its progress.

In the end, there’s no trick that can stop degeneration, but you can take plenty of steps to slow it down or put it off. If you’d like to learn more, please feel free to call us, or you can fill out the form on this website to request an appointment.

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