The two main degenerative spine risk factors are virtually unavoidable: an aging body or traumatic injury. The natural aging process can rob intervertebral discs of the fluid content that gives them their elasticity. Aging also leads to diminished viscosity within the joints where vertebrae meet and flex. An injury, such as a compression fracture, can shift the spinal anatomy and trigger or exacerbate a degenerative condition. In addition to age and injury, lifestyle factors like smoking, poor diet, excessive weight, and overuse may exacerbate spine degeneration.
While not every degenerative condition exhibits symptoms, disc or joint deterioration can lead to nerve compression – which, in turn, can cause pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness.
Mitigating Degenerative Spine Risk Factors
There’s no stopping the aging process, of course, and no one can predict when traumatic injury might strike. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate the risk of a potential degenerative spine condition, including:
- Modify activities to avoid back stress – If there are particular exercises or activities that seem to trigger back pain, it makes sense to avoid those activities if possible. It is important to use proper technique when lifting heavy objects and participating in vigorous sports.
- Stay active – An active lifestyle, with a regular, doctor-approved exercise regimen, helps the discs retain water and keeps the bones and muscles in the back and neck strong. This, in turn, improves spinal stability and may slow degeneration.
- Eat well – A proper diet helps combat obesity, which prevents the vertebrae and discs from having to support more weight than they are designed to carry. Good nutrition also helps support spinal strength. In addition, staying hydrated encourages water retention within the discs and helps joints stay lubricated.
Treating the Symptoms
Most of the time, symptoms associated with a degenerative spine can be managed with pain medication, physical therapy, behavior modification or other conservative treatment methods. However, if chronic pain or discomfort persists despite weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery might become an option. Traditional open back surgery for nerve compression related to conditions such as a herniated disc, a bulging disc or facet disease involves the use of general anesthesia, a long hospital stay and a lengthy recuperation.
Laser Spine Institute offers a minimally invasive, endoscopic alternative to traditional surgery, with outpatient service, deep IV sedation instead of general anesthesia and a much shorter recuperation. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more, or for a free review of an MRI or CT scan.