Has your spine doctor said you have degenerative disc disease?
Perhaps you wonder if this spinal condition and its associated pain and movement limitations will impact how you work, or even if you can keep your job. The answer is yes, you likely can, but you will need to use smart strategies to reduce stress and strain on your back. Here is some advice from our team of spine surgeons in Tennessee.
What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease affects all adults, especially as they enter their middle and senior years. The natural cushions, or intervertebral discs, between the bony vertebrae in the spine gradually lose their water content, flexibility and size as you age.
As the spaces between vertebrae in the neck, mid-back and lower back shrink, bone can rub on bone, nerves may be pinched and overall flexibility in the back decreases. Small bone spurs, or osteophytes, begin to form as the body tries (and fails) to repair the joints.
Pain is the typical symptom of degenerative disc disease, along with poor range of motion when bending and twisting. Most instances of degenerative disc disease begin in the lower back, or lumbar spine. However, many people have symptoms in the cervical spine, or neck, as well.
Managing Degenerative Disc Disease in the Workplace
Many of the strategies for managing degenerative disc disease at home also help in the workplace. For instance, spine surgeons recommend that people take frequent walking breaks from repetitive tasks or sitting. This means getting up from sitting on the couch at home sitting at your desk at work.
Additionally, it’s important to:
Exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Cycling, swimming or walking are great aerobic activities and strengthen the all-important core muscles in the abdomen and back.
Do Physical Therapy
Engage in a regular program of physical therapy with stretching and strengthening exercises to keep the back muscles flexible and strong.
Avoid Heavy Lifting
Avoid heavy lifting, especially when twisting movements may be involved. If you must lift, use proper back mechanics and get a co-worker to assist you with extra heavy loads.
Take breaks as much as possible, particularly when you are doing strenuous tasks. If you have a desk job, taking a break entails getting up from your computer, walking and stretching for a few minutes every half hour or so.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Get to and maintain a healthy body weight to keep your spine healthy. Just one extra pound of excess weight places four pounds of extra pressure on the vertebrae and discs in the spinal column.
Wear Protective Gear
If your job requires hard labor, wear protective gear, such as a lumbar brace and work boots with thick, supportive soles. Be sure your gear fits properly and is in good condition. Additionally, keep your workstation or area neat and free of debris which could be a trip hazard.
Maintain Good Posture and Ergonomics
Maintain good posture throughout the day – this means no slouching and keep both feet flat on the floor. Adjust the height of your worktable and/or chair to reduce forward stress and strain on your neck, shoulders and lower back.
Eat Healthy and Stay Hydrated
Eat a nutritious lunch and snacks. Make sure you include fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and meats and whole grain breads in your diet. Stay well-hydrated by keeping your water bottle full and readily accessible.
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment in Tennessee and Southwest Virginia
At Watauga Orthopaedics, our spine surgeons are Dr. Richard Duncan and Dr. Scott MacDonald. When you consult with one of these experienced orthopedic specialists about degenerative disc disease and how to live–and work–with it, you’ll receive advice tailor-made to your health, age and occupation.
Our professional team believes that accurate patient education helps people live well, work safely and keep their musculoskeletal system healthy, functional and injury-free.
Remember, Watauga Orthopaedics delivers state of the art treatments for work-related injuries and conditions. We can evaluate your capacity to work, report to your doctor and employer and get you moving and safely and effectively again.
Please call our office at (423) 282-9011 to arrange a consultation with one of our board-certified orthopedic physicians. Additionally, you can schedule an appointment with us using our appointment request form. We have locations in Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol, Tennessee and are eager to serve all your bone and joint needs.