Published: 10/21/2014 - Updated: 11/18/2018
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
The gradual and degenerative process that affects vertebra discs is called discopathy or spondylosis. This could affect the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, or sacral regions. This condition is also known as degenerative disc disease (DDD).
The spinal column is made up of 33 vertebrae, classified in: 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral (which are generally consolidated) and the 4 that form the coccyx. These vertebrae are joined together by the vertebral discs and facet joints.
Vertebral discs are pillows made up of cartilaginous cushioning situated between the vertebrae, which are shock-absorbing discs that allow for slight vertebral movement. They also act as a ligament for maintaining them together. Vertebral discs are divided into two parts: the central gelatinous part (referred to as “vertebral pulp”), and the area known as the annulus fibrosis, which surrounds and protects the nucleus.
What causes invertebral disc degeneration?
When vertebral discs are young and healthy they look moist. This moisture disappears due to either age or carelessness in spinal care with proper diet and habits. This spinal dehydration limits the disc’s protective ability, and hypothetically, leads to its degeneration. The discs then begin to be limited in movements and become rigid, and vertebral wear and tear accelerates.
If this chronic degenerative process advances it could end up affecting the vertebral group and even the bone marrow. This condition is the most common cause of progressive compression in spinal marrow and nerve roots.
A few causes of vertebral disc degeneration are
- Repeated and prolonged tension and pressure could not only degenerate and tear disc fibers, but it can also deform and break the fibrous ring, and release pulpy nucleus. When this happens, pressure begins to weigh on the nerve, causing disc lesions and pain and, in some occasions, it can even effect the legs. You mut keep in mind that the lumbar region suffers more wear and tear by movements. These problems generally originate in the fourth or fifth lumbar, or at the beginning of the sacrum bone.
- A deficient diet, combined with little or no body or vertebral muscle exercise, could cause premature lesions and wear.
- Improper management of emotions, like excessive pressure, fear, anxiety, constant repressed anger, or prolonged emotional pain could excessively tense the muscles near the spine, making the tired and causing wear in vertebral bones and discs. Also, feeling like life is heavy, or feeling like you carry too many responsibilities or problems, can cause this as well.
- Obesity and work overload predispose individuals for this condition.
Symptoms of Cervical or Lumbar Discopathy
- Pain upon bending to twisting the body.
- Pain while sitting.
- Pain the areas in the back.
- Pain in the legs, shoulders or arms, a sense of tingling and numbness.
- You could have a headache and a lot of neck tension when pressure accumulates in the cervical region.
- Lumbar pain when increasing lumbar efforts, or with movements in the trunk area, especially trunk flexing. The pain also increases when standing strait and when sitting for long periods of time. It’s best to lay down with bent legs, so the spine can rest.
- Restriction with some movements that involve the spinal column.
- When the ligaments surrounding the disc become brittle and easily tear, the disc’s soft gelatinous center, called the pulpy nucleus, begins to dry out and shrink. As a result, the individual will suffer from pain and rigidity in the neck, especially at the end of the day.
Treatment for caring for and helping recover vertebral disc health
Diet, exercise, and appropriate life habits can greatly help vertebral disc degeneration. You should keep in mind that the body has a surprising capacity for self-help and self-regeneration. The key is to give them the necessary elements so it can make what it needs. The body is the best laboratory for creating necessary healing substances, and has the ability to reach perfect health conditions during all stages of life.
It doesn’t matter how old you are; if you truly want to recover your body’s strength and vitality, you can begin to take certain measures, first of which being diet, which is one of nature’s gifts for keeping us healthy and strong throughout our entire lives.
- Diet should consist of plentiful vegetables, fruit, cold-pressed vegetable oils, fish (not fried), and drinking at least two liters of fresh water a day, in order to keep the body well hydrated. Also include one close of raw garlic in your diet, which is a strong tonic and has powerful medicinal effects. You can eat it before breakfast with a glass of warm water, or at night, so that the smell doesn’t bother you. You must eliminate any and all foods from your diet that generate toxins and harmful fats, which block the intestines and intoxicate the blood. These accumulate in various parts of the body, like the joints. When the body has too many toxins it generates wear in the entire body, along with all sorts of diseases and illnesses, wear and tear, an premature aging in the body.
- You should begin by practicing some sort of gentle activity, like swimming. This is excellent for helping the body have good circulation and good toxin elimination within the body. Swimming will also help exercise muscles in the back and legs, and will promote health spinal activity. It is especially recommended for older people that suffer from back problems: water exercises should be taken on gradually. Begin little by little and never force yourself to do too much, especially if you have never practiced sports before.
- You should avoid chiropractors. Gentle massages are the best for helping rest the muscles that surround the spinal column. Hydrotherapy is recommendable, along with bioenergic massages and Reiki therapy.
- Helping yourself with a therapy that helps liberate repressed emotions is also necessary, especially for repressed anger. This causes severe muscular tension and causes the spine to suffer from more stress and early degeneration. Practicing yoga can help, as well as reading literature that helps focus on new ways of seeing and feeling life.
- Kinesiology could also be an alternative therapy used to treat this conditions. Acupuncture or acupressure can be greatly helpful at fighting pain and helping slow premature degeneration.
- Phytotherapy for muscle relaxation and for calming pain (natural analgesics): avoid strong medications. These only diminish the body’ ability to self-heal. Natural analgesics are the best at relieving pain. Teas made from marjoram, anise, or mint are good at helping reduce pain while using another natural therapy. Rosemary tea is an excellent muscle relaxer.
- You should, at all costs, avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, consuming irritants, and making strong physical efforts.
- A few dietary supplements for spinal health are: shark cartilage, extra virgin olive oil, foods rich in vitamin C (oranges, plums, pineapple, broccoli, lemon, etc.) and spirulina seaweed. Vegetable milks like almond or rice milk are rich in nutrients, and don’t carry the extra problem of fats and toxins from animal milk. Almond milk is rich in calcium, which promotes good bone and vertebral muscle health. We recommend reading the book “You can Heal Your Life”, by Louise L. Hay.
Never forget that prevention is always better than any remedy. That’s why it is important to have a healthy your entire life, with continual exercise and more than anything else, a good mental and emotional attitude. This should receive special consideration among children and youth.
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- Saper RB, Lemaster C, Delitto A, et al. Yoga, physical therapy, or education for chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled noninferiority trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2017;167(2):85-94.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 11/18/2018
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