For those suffering from degenerative disc disease, symptoms may interfere with the activities of daily life. As part of conservative symptom management, specific exercises are often prescribed to increase flexibility.
With age, intervertebral discs naturally degenerate, resulting in decreased flexibility and increased susceptibility to injury. Precisely how does age cause degeneration? Medical research has found the following: According to the U. S. National Institutes of Health, at birth the human body contains 90% water, at adulthood it contains 70% water, and by age 90 it contains about 50% water. Additionally, the composition of elastin, which is the protein that gives tissues the ability to stretch, chemically changes. With age, elastin undergoes chemical cross-linking. This decreases the ability to stretch. With aging, bodies desiccate and become less stretchable. These two facts explain disc degeneration. Discs have two main components, an outer fibro-elastic containment rim and an inner soft gelatinous core. When axial loading pressure occurs along the spinal column, the central gelatinous core of the disc squeezes outward against the fibro-elastic containment rim of the disc. The elastic recoil of the containment wall pushes the gelatinous core back into position, reestablishing the height and shape of the disc. As a person ages, natural daily activity causes repeated loading of the disc. Tiny tears may develop in the fibers of the fibro-elastic outer containment wall. This causes some loss of the disc’s outer containment wall elasticity or recoil. The outer disc containment wall can no longer push the central core material back into shape as effectively. The outer containment wall sags, and is said to bulge or collapse. The disc may even herniate.
The degenerative process is influenced by what we do. Good nutrition helps maintain fluid balance and avoid dehydration. Avoid excessive alcohol intake. Alcohol dehydrates. Control diabetes. Diabetes dehydrates and causes changes in capillary blood vessel walls interfering with removal of waste materials, deliver of oxygen and nutrients. Exercise promotes circulation and the supply of oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissue for repair. Exercise also retards formation of cross-linking of elastin.
The most common exercises for this condition are designed to improve your flexibility, strength and range of motion, such as:
- Spinal traction, which involves stretching your back to alleviate pain caused by muscle tightness or compressed nerves
- Yoga, which strengthens back and abdominal muscles
- Exercise ball stretches or wall pushups to add flexibility to your spine and muscles
- Low impact aerobic activities such as swimming, bicycling, and walking
To learn about other therapeutic choices, you can review our page concerning physical therapy for degenerative disc disease.
In some cases, patients may not respond to conservative treatment of degenerative disc disease and surgery is prescribed. It is reasonable to determine the least invasive efficacious surgical treatment possible. Please investigate the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. We offer efficacious procedures with shorter convalescent period and lower risk when compared with traditional open spine surgery of all types. Contact us today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, and to receive more information about our institute.