If you are struggling with degenerative disc disease and it is the source of your pain, then this article may be helpful for you on how to manage it. If you missed out, this week we’ve been discussing what DDD is and how it influences pain. In short, DDD is a description of the loss of water content of the spinal disc and the weakening of the connective tissues. As a result, it leads to nerve impingement and altered mechanics of the back. This is due to aging and poor movement in the spine which can weaken the tissues. Yesterday I shared with you on strategies to help manage this condition. But what about activities that make this condition worse?
The activities that make DDD worse are the same things that actually cause it in the first place: aging, excessive motion, and prolonged stretching of the tissues. We can’t really control the aging process, so it is our jobs as humans to prevent/minimize incidences for the last two points. So here are two tactics that you can follow to both minimize the onset of DDD and prevent the worsening of the condition.
1) Minimize the shear forces acting on the spine. Motion is going to happen at the spine, in fact it is normal and the discs are used to act as a fulcrum (think about the center of the seesaw, the pivot point). There is another motion that often gets overlooked and that is called shear movement/force. So instead of joints acting like a hinge (like a door), joints can also slide on each other (also known as gliding), where the joints rub together. This usually occurs when there is less stability in the joint controlling movement. In the back, that is when you arch your back when standing up straight (aka the anterior pelvic tilt), completing the superman chest raise while laying on your stomach, or lifting with a rounded back and then straightening it. The shear force itself can weaken the layers of the disc, perpetuating opportunities to herniate, degenerate, and possibly cause pain.
2) Minimize the opportunity for compressive forces to act on an unstable spine. This happens through two ways: 1) Trying to arch the back with weight (think superman or leaning back against weight), 2) Carry weight on the shoulders without stabilizing the core. If you visualize your low back there isn’t much supporting it (unlike the ribcage), so when adding weight, like a backpack or a child, there is compression on the low back. Compression can lead to making the DDD worse.
To prevent the two scenarios from occurring in your back there are two very strong solutions. The first is stabilizing your spine. We call this “core strength”, but I like to describe it as “core coordination”. Meaning that there should be tension created between your rib cage and pubic bone, also known as bracing. The second way to prevent a worsening of DDD is to maximize movement at the hip by properly squatting (aka sitting down) and picking things up (aka the deadlift) without arching the back.
Remember, DDD is a diagnosis via MRI, and often times people can have DDD without pain. So even if you do have it, there is hope to recover and prevent it from progressing.
Remember, join me a week from today on February 15 at 7am PST for a free webinar on how to fix your own sciatica pain. We’ll go over key strategies to help you break free from this pain cycle. There will also be time for a Q&A so I can answer your questions directly. You can RSVP here.
Also, if you haven’t had the chance to check out the Sciatica Protocol, we are offering a free 3 day trial before transitioning to our $9.99/week subscription. You can cancel anytime. Check it out here.