things to avoid with degenerative disc disease

Table of Contents

Introduction of the article things to avoid with degenerative disc disease

Are you experiencing back pain that seems to get worse over time? It could be degenerative disc disease. This condition affects millions of people worldwide and can cause a wide range of symptoms, from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. While there is no cure for degenerative disc disease, there are many ways to manage the symptoms and prevent further damage. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the necessary things to avoid with degenerative disc disease in order to stay healthy and pain-free. Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been living with the condition for years, these tips will help you live your best life possible!

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that affects the discs between vertebrae in the spine. These discs act as cushions, absorbing shock and allowing for flexibility and movement in the back. Over time, these discs can begin to break down or degenerate, leading to pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a condition that primarily affects the intervertebral discs of the spine. It is a common age-related condition, and while the exact cause is not always clear, several factors are believed to contribute to its development.

There are several types of treatments available for people with degenerative disc disease including physical therapy, medications like anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants. In severe cases where conservative measures don’t work surgery may be necessary.

It’s important to note that while there is no cure for this condition; understanding its causes and symptoms will help you manage your everyday life better so you don’t have to suffer unnecessarily from chronic pain!

Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While the underlying causes of this condition are not fully understood, researchers have identified several factors that may contribute to its development. These factors include

1. Age

One of the most significant risk factors for degenerative disc disease is age. As we get older, our spinal discs gradually lose their ability to absorb shock and maintain their shape. This can lead to disc degeneration and other related conditions such as herniated discs.

DDD is often considered a natural part of the aging process. As people get older, the discs in the spine naturally lose water content, elasticity, and height, which can lead to degeneration.

2. Genetics

 Genetic factors can play a role in the development of DDD. If you have a family history of spine-related problems, you may be at a higher risk of developing this condition.

3. Wear and Tear

 Over time, the repetitive stress and wear and tear on the spine can contribute to disc degeneration. This can be a result of activities that place strain on the spine, such as heavy lifting, improper body mechanics, or certain sports.

4. Smoking

Smoking is a known risk factor for DDD. It can reduce blood flow to the spine and hinder the body’s ability to deliver nutrients to the discs, which can accelerate degeneration.

5. Poor Posture

 Maintaining poor posture over an extended period can put additional stress on the spinal discs and contribute to their degeneration.

6. Obesity

 Excess body weight can increase the load on the spine, leading to accelerated disc degeneration, especially in the lumbar (lower) spine.

7. Spinal Injuries

Traumatic injuries to the spine, such as from accidents or falls, can damage the discs and accelerate degeneration.

8. Inflammation

Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can affect the discs and contribute to their deterioration.

9. Inactivity

Lack of regular exercise and physical activity can weaken the muscles that support the spine, leading to greater stress on the discs.

10. Occupation

Certain occupations that involve heavy lifting, repetitive bending, or other activities that strain the spine may increase the risk of DDD.

It’s important to note that while these factors can contribute to the development of degenerative disc disease, not everyone with these risk factors will develop the condition. Additionally, some people may develop DDD without any identifiable risk factors. 

Managing and reducing risk factors, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seeking medical advice when experiencing symptoms can help in preventing or managing degenerative disc disease.

Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) can vary in terms of symptoms and severity from person to person. Some individuals with DDD may experience significant pain and disability, while others may have minimal or no symptoms. Common symptoms of DDD include:

1. Pain 

The most common symptom is chronic pain in the lower back and neck, which can vary in intensity and location depending on the affected area of the spine. The pain is often described as dull and aching and may be intermittent or constant.  This pain can be mild or severe, and it may come and go over time. Some people experience burning sensations or tingling in their arms, legs, hands, or feet.

2. Pain Aggravation

Activities such as bending, twisting, lifting, or sitting for prolonged periods can worsen the pain. Rest and changes in position may temporarily alleviate discomfort.

3. Radicular Pain 

If the degenerating disc compresses a nearby spinal nerve root, it can cause pain that radiates into the arms (if it’s in the cervical spine) or into the legs (if it’s in the lumbar spine). This is often referred to as radicular pain and can be accompanied by tingling, numbness, or weakness in the affected limb.

4. Stiffness 

People with DDD may experience stiffness in the affected area of the spine, making it difficult to move or bend. In this symptom of degenerative disc disease is stiffness and limited range of motion in the affected area of the spine. This can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks such as bending over, lifting objects or even sitting for extended periods

5. Reduced Range of Motion

 As the condition progresses, individuals may notice a decreased range of motion in the spine, limiting their ability to perform certain activities.

6. Muscle Weakness

 If nerve compression is severe, it can lead to muscle weakness in the arms or legs, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks.

7. Loss of Reflexes

 In cases of significant nerve compression, deep tendon reflexes may be diminished or absent.

8. Numbness and Tingling

 In addition to pain, some people with DDD may experience sensations of numbness and tingling in the affected areas, which are often associated with nerve compression.

9. Pain Relief with Rest

Symptoms may temporarily improve with rest or changes in posture, but the pain typically returns with activity.

10. Pain at Night

 DDD-related pain can sometimes be worse at night, disrupting sleep.

It’s important to note that the severity and combination of symptoms can vary widely. Not everyone with DDD will experience all of these symptoms, and some individuals may have only mild discomfort. 

If you suspect you have degenerative disc disease or are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and to discuss treatment options. Treatment may include conservative measures such as physical therapy, pain management, and lifestyle modifications, or in severe cases, surgical intervention may be considered.

Types of Treatments for Degenerative Disc Disease

The treatment options for degenerative disc disease (DDD) can vary depending on the severity of symptoms and the individual’s specific condition. Treatment aims to alleviate pain, improve function, and enhance the patient’s quality of life. Here are some common treatment approaches for DDD:

1. Conservative Management

a. Physical Therapy

 Physical therapy exercises and techniques can help improve spinal flexibility, strengthen supporting muscles, and relieve pain. Therapists may use modalities like heat or cold therapy.

b. Pain Medications

 Over-the-counter pain relievers (e.g., acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may help manage pain. For severe pain, prescription medications or muscle relaxants might be considered.

c. Activity Modification

 Avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms, maintaining good posture, and using proper body mechanics can help reduce stress on the spine.

d. Lifestyle Changes 

Quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce stress on the spine and improve overall health.

e. Epidural Steroid Injections 

In cases of severe pain or nerve compression, epidural injections of corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms.

2. Chiropractic Care 

Some individuals find relief from DDD-related pain through chiropractic adjustments, although the effectiveness can vary from person to person.

3. Acupuncture

 Acupuncture may provide pain relief for some individuals with DDD by stimulating specific points in the body.

4. Bracing

In certain cases, bracing or corsets may be used to support the spine and reduce pain, especially if there is instability.

5. Exercise and Rehabilitation

 Regular low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking or swimming, can help maintain spinal health and reduce pain. Core-strengthening exercises can also be beneficial.

6. Manual Manipulation

 Some individuals benefit from manual manipulation techniques performed by osteopathic physicians or physical therapists to relieve pain and improve mobility.

7. Nutritional Supplements

 Some individuals take dietary supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health, although their effectiveness is still debated.

8. Spinal Decompression Therapy

This non-surgical procedure involves the use of a machine to gently stretch the spine, relieving pressure on the discs and potentially reducing pain.

9. Surgical Options

Surgery is typically considered when conservative treatments have failed or in cases of severe symptoms. Surgical options for DDD may include:

a. Discectomy

This procedure involves removing a portion or the entire damaged disc to relieve pressure on nerve roots.

b. Spinal Fusion 

Fusion surgery aims to stabilize the spine by fusing adjacent vertebrae together, often with the use of bone grafts or implants.

c. Artificial Disc Replacement 

In this procedure, the damaged disc is replaced with an artificial one, preserving motion in the affected segment of the spine.

10. Laser Therapy 

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT), also known as cold laser therapy, is a non-invasive treatment option that uses low-level lasers or light-emitting diodes to stimulate cell repair and reduce pain and inflammation. While research on the effectiveness of LLLT for DDD is ongoing, some individuals have reported pain relief and improved function with this therapy. 

It’s typically used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan and is considered safe with minimal side effects. However, its long-term benefits for DDD are still being studied, and it may not be suitable for all patients. If considering LT, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if it’s an appropriate option for your specific condition.

It’s important to note that not all individuals with DDD will require surgery, and the choice of treatment depends on factors such as the severity of symptoms, the location of the affected disc(s), and the individual’s overall health. 

A healthcare professional, often a spine specialist, can help determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on a thorough evaluation and consideration of the patient’s unique circumstances.

The Best Exercise for People with Degenerative Disc Disease

Exercise is an essential part of managing degenerative disc disease. It helps to keep the muscles around your spine strong and flexible, reducing pain and improving mobility. However, some exercises can put too much strain on your back, exacerbating your symptoms.

1. Low-impact exercise

The best exercise for people with degenerative disc disease is low-impact activities such as walking, cycling, or swimming. These exercises are gentle on the joints and help to improve cardiovascular health without putting too much pressure on the spine.

Another great exercise option is yoga. Yoga focuses on gentle stretching and strengthening movements that can help alleviate back pain while also promoting relaxation.

2. Core-Strengthening Exercises

A strong core can provide better support to the spine. Some effective core exercises for DDD include:

i. Pelvic tilts 

Lie on your back with your knees bent, tighten your abdominal muscles, and gently tilt your pelvis upward.

ii. Bridge exercises

 Lie on your back with your knees bent and lift your hips off the ground.

bridge exercise

iii. Planks

Support your body on your forearms and toes in a straight line, engaging your core muscles.

iv. Bird-dog exercises

From a hands-and-knees position, extend one arm and the opposite leg while keeping your core engaged.

3. Flexibility and Stretching

Stretching exercises can help improve spinal flexibility and reduce stiffness. Gentle yoga or Pilates routines that focus on stretching and relaxation can be particularly beneficial.

4. Strengthening Exercises

Resistance training exercises that target the muscles of the back and abdomen can help support the spine. These exercises should be done with proper form and gradually increased resistance. Examples include rows, lat pull-downs, and leg raises.

5. Aqua Therapy

Water-based exercises, often performed in a pool, can provide a low-impact way to improve strength and flexibility while reducing stress on the spine.

6. McKenzie Exercises

These exercises are a specific approach to managing back pain and can be helpful for some people with DDD. They involve a series of movements and stretches designed to reduce pain and improve mobility.

7. Neck Exercises (for cervical DDD)

Gentle neck stretches and isometric exercises can help improve neck strength and reduce pain for individuals with cervical DDD. It’s essential to perform these exercises under the guidance of a physical therapist or healthcare provider.

neck excercises

8. Pelvic Tilt and Lumbar Stretch (for lumbar DDD)

Gently tilting the pelvis and performing lumbar stretches can help relieve pain and maintain flexibility in the lower back. These exercises should be done cautiously to avoid exacerbating symptoms.

It’s crucial to start slowly and progress gradually with any exercise program for DDD. The goal is to strengthen the muscles that support the spine and improve overall spinal health while avoiding activities that may worsen pain or exacerbate the condition. 

Working with a physical therapist or healthcare provider can help design a personalized exercise plan tailored to your specific needs and limitations.

It’s important to note that every person’s condition is unique, so it’s vital to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise routine. They will be able to assess which types of physical activity are safe and appropriate based on your individual needs.

Regular exercise can play a crucial role in managing degenerative disc disease by keeping you mobile while also reducing pain levels over time. Just remember to start slow and always listen to your body!

The Best Food for People with Degenerative Disc Disease

Nutrition plays a crucial role in maintaining good health, especially for those with degenerative disc disease. A balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help manage the symptoms of this condition. Here are some dietary recommendations for people with Degenerative Disc Disease:

1. Anti-inflammatory Foods

Include plenty of foods that have anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation can exacerbate DDD symptoms. Foods like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), turmeric, ginger, berries, leafy greens, and nuts can help reduce inflammation in the body.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce pain and inflammation associated with DDD.

3. Collagen-Rich Foods

Collagen is a protein that provides structural support to the discs in your spine. Incorporate collagen-rich foods like bone broth, chicken, fish, and collagen supplements to support spinal health.

4. Calcium and Vitamin D

Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is essential for bone health. Dairy products, fortified plant-based milk, leafy greens, and sunlight exposure are good sources of these nutrients. Maintaining healthy bones is essential for people with degenerative disc disease because it can prevent further damage to the spine.

5. Magnesium

Magnesium helps with muscle and nerve function and can aid in reducing muscle spasms and pain. Foods rich in magnesium include nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains.

6. Hydration

Staying well-hydrated is crucial for maintaining the health of your intervertebral discs. Water helps keep them pliable and able to absorb shock. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol, which can lead to dehydration.

7. Limit Sugar and Processed Foods

High sugar and processed foods can contribute to inflammation and weight gain. Reducing your consumption of these items may help alleviate some DDD symptoms.

8. Balanced Diet and Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential, as excess weight puts added stress on the spine. A balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients can support overall health and potentially reduce DDD-related discomfort.

9. Antioxidants 

Foods that are high in antioxidants such as berries, dark chocolate, and leafy greens can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress on the body.


10. Proteins

Incorporating protein into your diet through lean meats or plant-based sources like legumes can aid in muscle repair and growth. Strong muscles surrounding the spine provide support and relieve pressure on the discs.

11. Consult a Registered Dietitian

For personalized dietary guidance tailored to your specific needs, consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist. They can help you create a dietary plan that addresses your DDD symptoms and overall health goals.

Remember that while diet can play a supportive role in managing DDD, it should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may include physical therapy, pain management strategies, and advice from a healthcare provider. 

Always consult with your healthcare team before making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle, especially if you have underlying medical conditions or take medications.

The Benefits of Weight Loss for People with Degenerative Disc Disease

  • One of the major benefits of weight loss for people with degenerative disc disease is reducing pressure on the spine. 
  • The extra pounds a person carries put added stress on their back, which can worsen symptoms and make everyday activities difficult. By losing weight, individuals can alleviate some of this pressure and decrease pain levels.
  • Weight loss also helps to improve overall health and mobility. It can lead to increased energy levels, better sleep patterns, and improved cardiovascular function. This makes it easier for people with degenerative disc disease to engage in physical activity without experiencing discomfort or fatigue.
  • In addition, shedding excess weight can facilitate greater success with other treatment options such as physical therapy or chiropractic care. By reducing inflammation caused by obesity and improving muscle strength through exercise, patients may be able to avoid more invasive treatments like surgery.
  • It’s important to note that weight loss should always be approached in a healthy way that prioritizes proper nutrition and gradual progress over crash diets or extreme measures. Consulting with a healthcare provider before beginning any new diet or exercise regimen is recommended for those with degenerative disc disease looking to lose weight safely and effectively.

The Risks Associated with Surgery for People with Degenerative Disc Disease

While surgery can be a viable option for some individuals with severe degenerative disc disease, it is not without its risks. One of the biggest risks associated with surgery is infection. During any surgical procedure, there is always a risk of developing an infection at the site of the incision or even throughout the body.

1. Infection

Any surgical procedure carries a risk of infection, which can occur at the surgical site or in the bloodstream. Surgical site infections can lead to prolonged recovery and, in severe cases, may require further treatment.

2. Nerve Damage 

Spinal surgery, especially procedures like spinal fusion or decompression, poses a risk of nerve injury. Nerve damage can result in pain, weakness, numbness, or other neurological symptoms.

3. Blood Clots

Surgery can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE) due to decreased mobility during recovery. Blood clots can be life-threatening if they travel to the lungs or other vital organs.

4. Anesthesia Complications

Anesthesia is generally safe, but there is always a risk of adverse reactions or complications, such as allergic reactions or adverse effects on heart and lung function.

5. Failed Surgery

In some cases, surgery may not provide the expected relief or could lead to complications that require additional procedures. Failed back surgery syndrome is a term used to describe situations where surgery does not result in pain improvement or may even worsen the condition.

6. Adjacent Segment Degeneration

Spinal surgery can alter the biomechanics of the spine, potentially leading to increased wear and tear on adjacent discs. This may result in the need for future surgeries on adjacent levels of the spine.

7. Loss of Spinal Mobility

Some surgical procedures, like spinal fusion, can restrict spinal mobility and flexibility, potentially affecting a person’s ability to perform certain activities. This loss of mobility may impact overall quality of life.

8. Scar Tissue Formation

Surgery can lead to the formation of scar tissue (adhesions) around the surgical site, which may contribute to pain or reduced mobility.

9. Complications from Hardware

If surgical hardware, such as screws, plates, or cages, is used, there is a risk of complications related to these devices, including hardware failure or migration.

10. General Surgical Risks

Surgery always carries general risks, including bleeding, reaction to anesthesia, and the possibility of adverse events during the hospital stay.

It’s important to note that the decision to undergo surgery should be made after a thorough evaluation by a medical professional, taking into account factors such as the severity of your condition, your overall health, lifestyle, and your goals for pain relief and functional improvement.


Degenerative disc disease can be a painful and debilitating condition that affects many people. However, with proper management and care, it is possible to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

It’s important to avoid activities that may aggravate symptoms or cause further damage to the discs in your spine. This includes lifting heavy objects, sitting for long periods of time, and participating in high-impact sports.

Instead, focus on low-impact exercises such as walking or swimming and incorporate core strengthening exercises into your routine. Eating a healthy diet full of anti-inflammatory foods can also help reduce inflammation in the body which can contribute to pain from degenerative disc disease.

Weight loss may also provide significant benefits for those suffering from this condition but should always be approached under medical supervision.

Surgery should only be considered as a last resort when conservative treatments have failed to provide relief as it comes with its own set of risks.

If you are experiencing symptoms of degenerative disc disease, speak with your doctor about developing an individualized treatment plan that works best for you. With proper care and management techniques tailored specifically towards your needs and lifestyle habits; you can live life fully without letting degenerative disc disease hold you back.

  • Heavy Lifting: Avoid lifting heavy objects, especially with poor lifting techniques, as it can strain your spine and worsen DDD.
  • Sitting for Prolonged Periods: Sitting for extended periods can put increased pressure on your lumbar discs. If you have a desk job, take regular breaks to stand, stretch, or walk.
  • High-Impact Sports: Activities like running, jumping, or contact sports can jar the spine and accelerate disc degeneration. Consider lower-impact exercises like swimming or cycling.
  • Bending and Twisting: Excessive bending and twisting motions can strain your back. Be cautious when performing tasks that require these movements.
  • Sudden Movements: Avoid sudden, jerking movements or heavy impacts, as they can stress the discs and lead to pain.
  • Prolonged Standing: Standing for long periods can also place strain on your lower back. Use supportive footwear and take breaks to sit or stretch.
  • Smoking: Smoking can hinder blood flow to the spine and slow down the body’s natural healing processes. If you smoke, consider quitting.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol can contribute to dehydration and inflammation, which may worsen DDD symptoms. Limit alcohol intake.
  • Poor Posture: Maintaining poor posture can add stress to your spine. Be mindful of your posture when sitting, standing, and walking.
  • Ignoring Pain: Ignoring or pushing through severe pain can lead to further damage. Listen to your body and seek medical advice when needed.

Factors that worsen Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) include aging, genetics, poor lifestyle habits (such as smoking, excess weight, inactivity), certain occupations, spinal injuries, inflammatory conditions, improper posture, and repetitive stress or wear and tear on the spine.

Here’s a list of foods beneficial for disc degeneration in short words:

  • Fatty Fish (Salmon, Mackerel)
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Berries
  • Leafy Greens
  • Nuts
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia Seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Bone Broth
  • Chicken
  • Dairy Products
  • Fortified Plant-Based Milk
  • Sunlight (for Vitamin D)
  • Magnesium-Rich Foods (Nuts, Seeds, Greens)
  • Water
  • Lean Meats
  • Legumes (Plant-Based Protein)
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Yes, walking is good for disc degeneration. It promotes spinal health, enhances blood flow, aids in weight management, strengthens core muscles, and is low-impact, reducing strain on the spine.

Curing degenerative disc disease naturally is challenging, but lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms. Focus on exercises, proper nutrition, weight management, and avoiding exacerbating activities. Consult a healthcare provider for guidance.

For More Informative Articles, Keep Visiting Formal Words

Similar Posts