Guide to degenerative spine prevention

Degenerative spine disease describes a condition where the structures of the spine, including the vertebral bodies, discs, joints and ligaments, undergo degenerative changes. While the spine naturally weakens as we age, we can still take action to delay or even possibly prevent a degenerative spine.
Degenerative spine prevention means making sure that your neck and back are healthy, in the same way you keep your heart and lungs healthy.

All the components of your spine, including the vertebrae, spinal discs and the connective tissues, need nutrients to function properly, which is why diet and exercise may help you avoid the painful conditions that accompany a degenerative spine. Read on to learn about the causes of a degenerative spine, prevention methods and treatment options if your condition still develops after a course of nonsurgical therapies.

What causes a degenerative spine?

As the name implies, a degenerative spine is one that has weakened and deteriorated over time. Naturally, aging is the primary cause, but other factors, including obesity, overexertion and illness, can also contribute. Degeneration of the spine can occur in the facet joints or the spinal discs, both of which are largely dependent on cartilage to function normally.

The gradual loss of moisture and durability in the spinal cartilage has harmful effects on the spine. Conditions such as facet disease and herniated or bulging discs can contribute to nerve compression and symptoms such as numbness, weakness and spine pain in the neck or lower back as well as pain in the arms, hands, legs and feet. Pain in the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine can also result in radiating pain in the extremities, such as the arms and legs.

Tips for degenerative spine prevention

There are a few options available to help prevent the onset of a degenerative spine condition as you grow older, including:

  • Exercise. To keep your spine as healthy as possible, take part in low-impact exercises like walking or swimming. Lightweight training and gentle yoga can also help your spine stay strong and flexible. Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.
  • Weight management. Stay disciplined about your diet. Eating foods that are high in fiber and low in fat will reduce body mass, which means your spine has less weight to support. Foods like fish, nuts and leafy greens are high in omega fatty acids and antioxidants, both of which contribute to the health of joints and spinal discs.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol. The toxins and nicotine in cigarettes prevent your discs from absorbing vitamins and nutrients. Also, alcohol consumption can be detrimental to your mood and mask the symptoms you are experiencing, as it acts as a muscle relaxant.

Despite all of your best preventive efforts, you may still develop degeneration of the spine. In fact, the majority of adults will have varying levels of spine deterioration, but only a small portion of these individuals will experience painful nerve compression from the condition.

Treatments for a degenerative spine

If the chronic pain from this condition is unable to be prevented, a doctor will likely recommend managing your symptoms with conservative treatment before you consider surgery. A treatment plan may include prescription or over-the-counter pain medication, chiropractic manipulation, physical therapy, core-strengthening exercises, heat massages and ultrasounds. In the likelihood that the pain from a degenerative spine persists despite conservative treatment, your primary care physician may suggest that you contact a specialist about your surgical options, like the board-certified surgeons+ at Laser Spine Institute.

At Laser Spine Institute, we use minimally invasive techniques to help treat the degenerative spine on an outpatient basis and without the higher risks associated with traditional open spine surgery. Our dedicated team uses a less than 1-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques to treat the part of the spine that is degenerating. These minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures have already helped more than 75,000 patients to date find relief from neck and back pain and offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^

Reach out to us today so we can help guide you on your next step toward pain relief. We will request a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.