Can You Live a Normal Life with Degenerative Disc Disease?

Can You Live a Normal Life with Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is an age-related condition that occurs when the discs of the vertebrae, located in the spine, deteriorate. Symptoms may include weakness, numbness, and radiating pain. The discs are responsible for absorbing shock, allowing the back to move freely. As they wear out, their ability to protect the vertebrae becomes limited. 

For people with the condition, symptoms like nerve and muscle pain, spinal instability, tingling and weakness in the muscles, and neurological symptoms may make it challenging to perform tasks. If your symptoms prevent you from being able to perform your work, having degenerative disc disease could qualify you for unemployment benefits. This is usually decided based on the degree of degeneration experienced.

While degenerative disc disease could require some modifications to your normal routine, however, it is possible to live a normal life with the condition. 

Ways to Lead a Normal Life with Degenerative Disc Disease

Finding a supportive team of healthcare professionals is one important pillar of maintaining your quality of life with degenerative disc disease. These experts may recommend the following tactics for controlling symptoms, or a combination thereof:

  • Optimizing your posture through physical therapy and ergonomic furniture to reduce pain
  • Using heat and cold therapies to control pain levels as needed
  • Seeking alternative treatments, such as regenerative medicine.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen 
  • Staying physically active with low-impact exercise to maintain strength, stamina, and flexibility
  • Using physical therapy to maintain strength and range of motion in the back and neck

Thus, even if you have to be out of work for some time or indefinitely, there are many lifestyle tactics and therapies you can explore to feel your best while living with this disease. If you would like to learn more then contact us today and one of our care coordinators will be happy to help!

Regenerative Medicine Used to Manage Multiple Sclerosis?

Regenerative Medicine Used to Manage Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a nervous system disorder in which the information that flows between the brain and body becomes disrupted. It’s estimated that at least one million people in the U.S. are living with MS. In this condition, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in the brain known as the myelin sheath, or the protective coverings for the nerves. This immune system attack also results in inflammation which can further damage nerve cells. Here is how regenerative medicine is used to manage multiple sclerosis.

People with MS can experience a wide range of unpredictable symptoms which may include:

  • Vision changes
  • Tremors
  • Numbness or weakness in the limbs
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Gait changes 
  • Tingling or pain throughout the body

Experts aren’t sure what causes MS, though it’s believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors contributes to a person’s risk. Women are also two to three times more likely to have the condition. 

Regenerative Therapy for MS 

Fortunately, the outlook for people with MS has improved over the years. Medications are available to both manage symptoms and modify the progression of the disease. In addition, patients may also be able to explore options such as regenerative therapy to halt the progression of MS and control symptoms without the side effects that come with medications. 

Regenerative therapy is used to trigger the natural repair processes within the body, thereby replacing damaged cells with new, healthy ones. In particular, mesenchymal stem cells could be used to repair and replace damaged nerve cells. These cells also have anti-inflammatory properties and can restore the myelin on nerve cells to essentially reprogram the immune system. Patients could then see benefits such as:

  • Improved coordination and concentration
  • Reduced muscle spasms and pain
  • Reduced numbness and tingling
  • Improved bladder function
  • Better energy levels
  • Better balance and range of motion
  • Improved sense of touch and vision
  • Slowing or decreased rate of progression
  • Reduced headaches

Currently, patients may undergo regenerative therapies such as stem cell injections. These cells can regenerate lost or damaged cells, including myelin sheath tissue. They can also modulate the immune system to halt the attack on healthy cells, returning it to a state of rest and allowing the body to restore its proper levels of wellness. 

Patients who have undergone stem cell therapy for MS have witnessed noteworthy improvements in the areas of neurologic disability, functional scores, and overall quality of life. Moreover, side effects are mild and generally include headache and fatigue. 

While research into regenerative medicine to manage Multiple Sclerosis is ongoing, the findings revealed so far suggest that stem cell therapy and similar treatments hold considerable potential for helping people with MS and other autoimmune disorders.

What Causes Spinal Stenosis to Flare Up?

What Causes Spinal Stenosis to Flare Up?

Spinal stenosis flare up occurs when the spaces in the spine become narrow, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Changes related to aging are a common cause for the condition, but it can also be a result of congenital factors; some people are simply born with a narrower spine. Other spinal conditions such as scoliosis can also be a risk factor for the condition. 

There are two regions where spinal stenosis can occur: the lower back or the neck. Common symptoms include pain in the affected area, as well as numbness or weakness in the arms and legs. Treatment for the condition may vary based on the severity of symptoms. For mild cases, doctors may simply recommend routine monitoring and home remedies such as pain relievers, heat and cold therapy, and exercise. In more severe cases, treatments such as a decompression procedure may be recommended to remove portions of ligaments that are compressing nerve roots. Spinal stenosis surgery is usually reserved for only the most severe cases, including those with pronounced pain or loss of bladder control. 

Avoiding Spinal Stenosis Flares

Because spinal stenosis is largely due to age-related factors, including bone and muscle loss, there’s no way to completely guarantee full prevention of spinal stenosis. With that being said, certain factors could contribute to the condition or cause flare-ups in existing cases. Here are some factors to watch for:

  • Being overweight: Carrying extra weight puts excess strain on the spine. Maintaining a healthy weight through a nutritional diet and exercise are good ways to control symptoms or minimize your risk for the condition. 
  • Smoking: Researchers have established a link between smoking and back conditions that require spinal surgery. In particular, smoking appears to increase the risk of a narrowed lower spinal space. Smoking cessation can help reduce the risk. 
  • Poor Posture: Your posture plays an important role in maintaining spinal health. Poor posture can shift the alignment of the tissues in the back, aggravating preexisting conditions such as spinal stenosis. Using ergonomic furniture and taking breaks to sit or stand frequently throughout the day helps promote good posture. 
  • Inactivity: Exercise keeps the muscles that support the spine strong, and can also help you maintain flexibility and balance. Periods of inactivity can have the opposite effect and may contribute to flare-ups. 

Tracking your symptoms is important with spinal stenosis flare up, as the condition can develop slowly over time. Lifestyle treatments and avoidance of known triggers may help to control your pain for a long time, but if you tried these methods and are still experiencing discomfort, it may be time to consider other treatment options. 

Some patients are discovering the healing potential of stem cell therapy options. The cells have the potential to help with inflammation, pain, and regeneration of tissues. It is important to have a regenerative medicine spine specialist review candidacy to determine if the outcome is optimal for the patient. Discover if you are a candidate with a complimentary assessment. 

What’s the Best Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease?

What’s the Best Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease?

One of the most common causes of lower back pain, degenerative disc disease is an umbrella term for the symptoms that result from general wear and tear on a spinal disc. In addition to back pain, it can also cause shooting pains in the extremities, weakness, and numbness. In this article, we will talk about the best treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease.

While the condition can be frustrating, there are many ways to manage its symptoms. In fact, most cases involve periodic flare-ups, but the pain typically doesn’t intensify over time. For this reason, many people can avoid surgery for degenerative disc disease. 

Instead of going directly to surgical interventions, the goals of treating the condition usually entail:

  • Relieving pain to the point that patients can participate in rehabilitation programs or perform exercises at home without discomfort.
  • Preventing added stress to the back using ergonomics and improved posture.
  • Managing discomfort so individuals can go about their normal routine uninterrupted.

There are many lifestyle modifications, self-care options, and clinical therapies that can be tried before resorting to more invasive procedures. Here are a few common approaches:

  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain medications such as NSAIDs and acetaminophen may help control pain levels during particularly intense flare-ups.
  • Chiropractic care: Some individuals find that manual manipulation performed by a chiropractor can reduce the pressure on sensitive areas of the back. 
  • Epidural injections: Spinal injections deliver steroids directly to the compromised area of the back to reduce inflammation and thus relieve pain.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound technology brings warmth to affected areas through sound waves, increases blood flow, and could potentially stimulate healing in some back injuries.
  • Massage therapy: Massage increases blood flow, alleviates tension in the muscles, and triggers the release of endorphins, all of which can help reduce pain levels.
  • TENS units: Using electrical stimulation, these units override pain signals in affected areas.

Some patients also use acupuncture and home therapies such as cool or warm compresses to reduce back pain caused by degenerative disc disease. Beyond these treatments, here are a few lifestyle modifications that may also help:

  • Smoking cessation: Smoking depletes oxygen, which your body needs to perform its best. Tobacco use and chronic pain often go hand-in-hand, so quitting could help you find relief.
  • Exercise: Working out may seem counterintuitive when you’re in pain, but many patients can achieve long-term healing through exercise. Aim for a combination of strengthening, stretching, and low-impact cardio moves.
  • Weight loss: Added weight puts stress on your spine, potentially intensifying your degenerative disc disease. Weight loss could reduce the stress on vertebrae and discs, alleviating back pain. 
  • Ergonomics: Ergonomics is the application of physiological principles to products such as furniture and footwear to help support healthy posture and minimize back pain. If you suspect your work environment could be contributing to your back soreness, it’s worth looking into supportive shoes, ergonomic furniture, and modifications to your posture. 

In addition to these treatments and lifestyle changes, patients seeking a nonsurgical treatment for degenerative disc disease may consider stem cell therapy. This form of regenerative medicine works at the site of injury and uses the body’s natural healing properties delivered through stem cells to repair and regenerate tissue. This treatment has been well-tolerated in studies and presents minimal risk and downtime, offering a convenient alternative to invasive procedures. If you want to learn more then contact a care coordinator today!

What is Spinal Stenosis?

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spaces within the spine narrow, resulting in pressure on the nerves running through the spinal column. The condition often develops in the lower back (lumbar stenosis) or neck (cervical stenosis). 

People with spinal stenosis may not experience any symptoms, while others have pain, muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling. The condition is typically a result of osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear deterioration of joints that occurs over time. Some doctors may recommend surgery to create additional space for the nerves.

Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

The symptoms of spinal stenosis may vary based on where the issue is located. 

Symptoms of Cervical Stenosis

With stenosis of the upper spine or neck region, patients often experience:

  • Weakness in the extremities, such as a hand, foot, arm, or leg
  • Balance issues
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Neck pain
  • Bowel or bladder issues in extreme cases

Symptoms of Lumbar Stenosis

When stenosis occurs in the lower back, patients may have:

  • Weakness or numbness in the foot or leg
  • Pain or cramping in one or both legs while walking or after long periods of standing
  • Back pain

Causes of Spinal Stenosis

Some people are naturally born with a narrow spinal canal, but in many cases, spinal stenosis is a result of outside factors that have caused the narrowing. Possible reasons for stenosis may include:

  • A herniated disk: The soft cushions between vertebrae often dry out and are less able to absorb shock over time. If a disk’s exterior cracks, the material may escape and put pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
  • Bone overgrowth: Osteoarthritis is commonly associated with bone spurs, which can make their way into the spinal canal. Paget’s disease, a bone disorder, can also result in bone overgrowth.
  • Ligament thickening: The cords that hold the spine together may thicken over time, bulging into the spinal column and creating pressure on nerves.
  • Spinal injuries: Trauma caused by car accidents and other injuries can damage the vertebrae, leading to issues such as displaced bone or fractures that can impact the spinal canal. Also, the swelling of tissue following back surgery can put pressure on the nerves in the spine.
  • Tumors: Development of tumors in the spinal cord’s membranes can also occur, though they are uncommon. 

In addition to these causes, certain factors also increase a person’s risk for spinal stenosis. Being over the age of 50, experiencing a back injury, and having a congenital spinal deformity such as scoliosis are all considered risk factors. Genetic diseases that impact bone or muscle development can also lead to spinal stenosis. If you want to learn more then contact a care coordinator today!

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