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Degenerative Disc Disease Overview

Overview

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is commonly mistaken for a disease due to its name. However, DDD is actually the natural, decomposing effects of aging. Our bodies endure a substantial amount of stress throughout a lifetime, and the spine is literally the backbone of our bodies’ upright and mechanical positioning and movement. The spine allows us to twist, bend, arch, and lean, while allowing our bodies to retain its skeletal form. The discs in the spine, in between each vertebra, act as shocks for those vertebrae, relieving the stress and blunt force that they would otherwise endure. However, just like shocks in an automobile, these discs become worn out over time due to strenuous and frequent use.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

As we age, the cartilage protecting our spinal discs deteriorates, allowing the discs to bulge or protrude. Due to the shape and curvature of our spine, this usually occurs in the upper and lower back. These parts of the spine are the focal points of pressure and strenuous activity. The actual corrosion of the cartilage is called Osteoarthritis, and the most common result of this is a herniated disc. Both of these issues, along with other related effects, greatly increase nerve damage and spinal pain.

What are the Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease?

Pain tolerance and awareness differs greatly between different people. While some people with DDD experience a great amount pain in certain areas of their back and neck, others might feel no pain at all. These pains are typically more noticed with movement of the back, such as twisting, reaching, arching, or bending over. Because of the structure and functionality of nerves, sharp pain can sometimes be felt outside of the general area of the affected disc, such as in the arms and legs, usually depending on upper or lower disc damage.

How is Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosed?

The diagnosis process is detailed and thorough, as it is extremely important to uproot the cause of any pain in the spine to determine the underlying issue and recommend the correct treatments. A physician will discuss with a patient any previous injuries, damage, or pain to the neck and spine. After neurostimulation, the physician can then make an educated decision on what treatments should initially take place to relieve any pain.

How is Degenerative Disc Disease Treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for DDD, but there are many different treatments patients can undergo to help with the symptoms of DDD, such as neck and back pain and nerve damage. Therapeutic, non-invasive treatment is primarily recommended to relieve neck and back pain in most cases. However, if the pain is too great or the damage to a disc is too severe, minimally invasive surgery could be recommended by a physician as a solution to further ease the pain.

There are two different kinds of non-invasive treatments for lower back pain: passive and active. Passive treatments consist of pain medication, such as muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory medicine, and oral steroids. More passive treatments include neurostimulation, ultra sound to enhance blood flow, therapeutic massages to relax muscles, and anti-inflammatory injections to reduce swelling.

Active treatments are more of a self-help, health focus. These include exercising, such as lifting light weights for muscle memory and retention, weight loss to provide relief from certain pressure points on the spine, and quitting smoking to increase blood to ensure faster healing.

Why Choose Become Pain Free?

From chiropractors to pain management specialists to expert spine surgeons, Become Pain Free can help get rid of your pain so you can get your life back on track. To learn more about how we can help, fill out the form on the right or call 888-373-3720. We'll connect you with the right specialist so you can stop living in pain.Call Become Pain Free... your pain solution.

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Pain Management

1. What Is Pain Management? Pain management is a quickly growing medical specialty that combines integrative therapies with traditional medical care. Ideally, this allows patients to have the best of both worlds. This type of care is typically customized for each person and should be created by the patient/healthcare provider treatment team. Following are some examples of this approach: Acupuncture: Developed in China, it has been practiced for thousands of years. The most commonly used and most scientifically studied acupuncture technique stimulates points on the body using thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by hand or electrical stimulation. Massage: Used in numerous cultures. Usually, a therapist will press, rub, and otherwise manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body with their hands, fingers and/or forearms to enhance function and promote relaxation. Physical therapy: Techniques include movement, exercises, water therapy, ultrasound, heat, and ice to help improve function, increase flexibility and strength, and decrease pain. Tai chi: This ancient Chinese discipline is sometimes thought of as a combination of yoga and meditation. Tai chi is rooted in self-control, and is a series of slow and soft movements. These exercises are thought to be calming and relaxing, providing both physical and emotional benefits. Medications: Often an important part of managing illness and relieving pain. Two common categories of medicines include: Over-the-counter medications: These are medications that you do not need a prescription from a healthcare provider to purchase. Follow the directions on the label and be sure to tell your loved one’s healthcare provider about them. Prescription medications: These medications require a prescription from a healthcare provider and must be purchased from a pharmacy. When using these medications, follow the directions on the label and call your healthcare provider with any questions. It is helpful to discuss all medications taken with the pharmacist. Social support: Identified as a significant way to help reduce pain. An individual’s support system includes friends, family members, and caregivers, including professionals. 2. Caring for a Person With Pain It is difficult to watch a loved one suffer from pain. Here are some important things to keep in mind: Believe your loved one’s report of pain. Pay attention to the signs that indicate your loved one might be in pain. These may include: Facial expressions, such as grimacing Breathing and sighing heavily Unusual body movements, such as limping Behavioral changes, such as not wanting to eat or sleep Emotional changes, such as crying or irritability Attend visits to the healthcare provider with your loved one. Prepare questions in advance and take notes. Keep a pain diary to use as a starting point for a discussion with the healthcare provider. For pain diaries and other assessment guides, Talk to the insurance company. You will likely need to communicate with your loved one’s insurance company to assist with claims. Before you pick up the phone to speak to a claims representative, it is necessary to gather some information: Your name and relationship to your loved one Your loved one’s birth date Insurance policy number Name and address of the organization that sent the bill Total amount of the bill Diagnosis code on the bill Insurance company’s explanation of benefits Remind and encourage your loved one to follow their treatment plan, such as doing their exercises or taking their pain medication. Take responsibility for all pain medications. There are many responsibilities that come with using medication to treat pain. Some things you should think about are: Keep a record of all medications being taken (prescription and over-the-counter medications). Tell the healthcare provider about all over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements your loved one is taking. If pain disrupts your loved one’s sleep, speak to their healthcare provider about treatment options. Lock up medications to avoid theft. Keep all medications out of the reach of children. Talk to a pharmacist about appropriate disposal after medications are no longer needed. 3. Caring for Yourself Seek support from other family caregivers. There is great strength in knowing you are not alone. Value yourself. When people offer to help, accept the offer and suggest specific things they can do to help you. Watch out for signs of depression in yourself and don’t wait to get professional help if you need it. There is a difference between caring and doing. Be open to technologies and ideas that help your loved one become more independent. Pain management is important for ongoing pain control, especially if you suffer with long-term or chronic pain. After getting a pain assessment,your doctor can prescribe pain medicine, other pain treatments, or psychotherapy to help with pain relief. Source: partnersagainstpain.com


Note: The information on this Web site is provided as general health guidelines and may not be applicable to your particular health condition. Your individual health status and any required medical treatments can only be properly addressed by a professional healthcare provider of your choice. Remember: There is no adequate substitution for a personal consultation with your physician. Neither BPF Specialty Hospital, or any of their affiliates, nor any contributors shall have any liability for the content or any errors or omissions in the information provided by this Web site.