As you get older your body gradually begins to respond to the wear and tear it has experienced over the years. When it comes to your joints, wear and tear is common in the knees, hips, and also the spine. The vertebrae in your spine are each separated by a disc that provides cushioning, support, and shock absorption. Unfortunately, as you get older these discs may start to deteriorate which can lead to degenerative disc disease.
A spine doctor can work with you to assess the discs in your spine, diagnose degenerative disc disease, and offer a treatment plan that best fits your body’s needs. However, there are no magical medications or surgical interventions that can completely restore the discs in your spine. But there are things you can do to help prevent deteriorating discs from getting worse.
Changes to your lifestyle and daily habits can help prevent degenerative disc disease and these will require commitment in your part to make more healthy choices. You can help slow disc deterioration and manage the uncomfortable symptoms of degenerative disc disease by incorporating these four gentle approaches into your daily life.
You might think of stretching as something you do when you first get out of bed in the morning or that athletes do to prepare for an activity and reduce the risk of sports injuries. There is actually so much more to stretching and it can really help loosen up your muscles and help you maintain a healthy range of motion in all your joints. Whether you are less active in your daily life or your job requires you to perform strenuous activities each week, both can cause significant pain and discomfort as the discs in your spine begin to degenerate.
A spine doctor may likely recommend you incorporate more stretching into your daily routine to help improve healthy mobility and range of motion. Stretching helps increase blood flow to your muscles, improve your posture, and even help reduce stress. In fact, regularly stretching and taking your body through a gentle range of motion activities can help support the three other gentle approaches listed here.
Practicing Proper Posture and Form
It is not enough to go through the motions of a recommended or prescribed stretch or activity; you must also focus on using good form throughout. Proper posture and maintaining a healthy alignment in your spine while performing stretches and exercises are key to providing the best support to your spine. Maintaining a healthy posture also helps your train and strengthen your muscles to better support your spine in its healthy alignment. Over time and with poor posture, your muscles learn to support these bad habits and offer less support to your joints, vertebrae, and spine.
Yoga is a gentle activity that can help you practice proper posture and encourage healthy spinal alignment. This type of activity helps you practice proper posture and form through a series of stretches and poses that engage your muscles and promote balance. Yoga also only uses your own body weight in its exercises, which puts less pressure and stress on the spine and joints than other forms of exercise. Your spine doctor may recommend yoga and other postural support techniques to help train your body to practice proper alignment throughout your daily movements.
A complex series of muscles supports your spine and joints in order to help the whole body work together and propel you throughout your day. Strengthening exercises focus on those muscles that support your spine and joints and help these muscles to do their best job. Weak muscles can contribute to poor posture, misalignments, and even back pain or discomfort.
When your muscles are not properly supporting your body, you may experience pain and also instability, which can even make you more susceptible to injury. Activities to promote strength, including yoga, can also help promote strength in your core and ab muscles. Strengthening your core muscles directly correlates to healthy posture and alignment because your core muscles are what help support your upper body. Strong core and back muscles better support a healthy spine.
Aerobic exercise doesn’t have to mean strenuous fitness! In fact, for those who have degenerative disc disease, aerobic exercises can simply refer to daily walks. If walking does not lead to back pain, it is a great aerobic exercise to practice because it promotes a healthy heart and keeps your muscles moving. Your spine doctor may want to discuss your posture while sitting, standing, and walking to help you focus on healthy spinal alignment while taking a brisk 20-30 minute walk each day.
If walking does cause you back pain, there is an even more gentle aerobic activity to participate in: water aerobics. Whether you choose to swim, walk laps in the water, or participate in a water aerobics class with others, being in the water reduces the weight and pressure on your joints so you can more easily move. The resistance in water activities provides enough tension to give you a good workout while being safe and gentle on your joints.