How to live with degenerative disc disease

If you’re suffering from chronic neck or back pain, you’re not alone. The odds are good that you know someone who is suffering from chronic back pain. Eighty percent of Americans have, or will, suffer from neck or back pain at some point.

Conditions such as degenerative disc disease can greatly impact how you live your life. Sometimes the onset is slow, and other times, you find yourself in pain after a misstep.

We understand how difficult life can be with chronic neck or back pain. Learn more about degenerative disc disease and how to cope with the pain:

What is it?

Degenerative disc disease is a condition of the spine that affects the intervertebral discs — the small, cushion-like discs that pad between each vertebrae. The fluid within the discs slowly decreases as you age. As the disc shrinks, pressure can be placed on the nerves. This is where your pain comes from. The narrowing discs may cause nerves to become pinched, which can send pain throughout your body. Degenerative disc disease is most common among those older than 60 years old.

What are the symptoms?

If you have degenerative disc disease, you may experience an array of symptoms, including:

  • Pain in your low- or mid-back
  • Radiating pain in your hips and legs
  • Worsened pain when sitting
  • Numbness and tingling in arms or legs

How to treat it?

The first step to treating any form of back pain is to consult with your physician to ensure you don’t injure your back more. Many physicians will suggest that you try several weeks or months of conservative, non-surgical treatment to see if the condition resolves on its own. Your physician may suggest that you try some low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming or biking. You may also consider physical therapy or chiropractic care. You can ease your pain by icing your back and using over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen.

If your back pain has not lessened after several months of conservative treatment, your physician may suggest a surgical option. Make sure that you fully understand your surgical options prior to committing to a procedure.

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