The disc is the shock absorbing structure that lies between each vertebra, allowing movement, absorbing shock and providing stability to the spine. Disc degeneration is among the leading causes of neck and lower back pain and disability.
Disc degeneration is usually seen in older patients and involves structural, functional, mechanical, nutritional and chemical changes in the affected disc and in the surrounding structures. Disc pain appears to be due to a combination of mechanical deformation of the disc and the presence of inflammatory mediators.
Disc degeneration is usually aggravated by activities that load the disc, such as bending forwards, slumped sitting, sit to stand, lifting, carrying, weightlifting, coughing, sneezing, straining and sudden forced movements. It is likely to be stiff in the morning, ease with gradual movement but may become achy at the end of a long day.
Pain can refer down to the buttocks or up to the mid back. In some cases pain can refer into the groin and or buttocks. It is normally described as an ache that can be severe.
Unfortunately there is no cure for osteoarthritis and disc degeneration, but the amount of osteoarthritis in a joint does not necessarily correlate with the severity of symptoms as seen in a number of x-ray investigations where marked osteoarthritic changes have been noted within asymptomatic patients. Symptoms can be managed and relieved greatly by a number of treatment techniques and exercises from your physiotherapist.
Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease
Physiotherapy treatment for patients with this condition is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and decrease the likelihood of injury recurrence. Treatment may comprise:
- Joint mobilisation
- Joint manipulation
- Spinal and pelvic realignment
- Dry needling /acupuncture
- Deep tissue massage/myofascial release
- Exercise programs to stretch, self treat and improve proprioception, balance, strength and core stability
- Biomechanical Assessment
- Neural mobilisation
- Education / training advise/ phased return to exercise
- Activity modification advice
- Orthotic/Insole advise
- Ice or heat treatment
- Clinical Pilates
- Injection advice