Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Exercises
Degenerative Disc Disease… sure sounds like a whole bunch of 4-letter words strung together. Historically, Degenerative Disc Disease, or DDD, resonates negative connotations when one is diagnosed with DDD. Unlike the name suggests, it’s not a disease as much as it is a natural occurrence that happens with aging, and the pain symptoms that are present with DDD typically don’t progress or worsen. While the symptoms don’t progress, the discs in the spine (called intervertebral discs or IVD), that show signs of wear and tear can continue to degrade. When DDD is present, the spaces between the IVD decrease (referred to as spinal stenosis), and can affect the surrounding soft tissue, presenting as signs of pain in the low back or neck. Additional symptoms that can arise are traveling pain down the arms or legs (referred to as radiculopathies), intense muscle spasms through the neck or low back, and/or a feeling of instability when going through simple motions like bending forward to tie your shoe. The presentation of these symptoms can make simple activities difficult, but it definitely doesn’t have to be that way for long.
Massage Therapy Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease
From a Massage Therapy perspective, a fundamental approach in treating chronic DDD is to find the balance between decreasing muscle tension and creating traction or decompressing the targeted vertebral segments. Finding the balance or a “green zone” of treatment is important since the spasms that are occurring through the neck or low back are happening because the body is trying to protect the area. Therefore, slow, repetitive, methodical approach between soft tissue and joint mobilization (or spinal decompression), techniques can help offer up pain relief and help the patient move easier in order to execute strengthening exercises efficiently.
Exercises for Degenerative Disc Disease?
Since a layer of symptoms can accompany DDD, it’s always best to consult one of our Sports Medicine Physicians, Physiotherapists, or Chiropractors who can provide an assessment and diagnosis of your condition and assign a comprehensive physical rehabilitation and therapy treatment plan for you. That being said, the exercises below tend to be suitable for most cases of DDD, and rebuild initial strength to progress from.
Upper Cervical Spine Chin Tucks
Mid-Cervical Spine Chin Tucks
Lower Cervical Spine Chin Tucks
Posterior Pelvic Tilt for Lumbar Spine
Focus on flattening your back. Using a flat towel that you can feel against your low back can serve as a cue to press into.
If you have trouble doing these on the floor, you can use a workout bench if one is handy, or they can simply be done in a bed. The firmer the bed, the better, but the bottom line is, just do them. A general rule of thumb is to not stop moving. Move within pain free ranges. If it causes extreme pain, stop! Joints love movement… “Motion is Lotion”.
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Rebalance Sports Medicine is a multidisciplinary clinic in downtown Toronto offering physiotherapy, chiropractic, registered massage therapy, sports medicine, naturopathy, Pilates and more.