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Degenerative Disc Disease--Breaking Down the Facts--Part 1

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When referring to your back, you are referring to the backbone of your entire existence, and the make-up of it is quite complex. And like anything else, this leaves a lot of room for error.

One of the most common back conditions people face – especially with age – is degenerative disc disease. Although technically speaking not a disease, it is a way to describe the changes your spinal discs make as you age - sort of like the wrinkles in your face. Because these spinal discs that separate your vertebrae deteriorate with time, this can ultimately leave your spine in a world of pain and discomfort.

Although degenerative disc disease can happen in any portion of your spine, it most commonly affects your lumbar region – or the bottom 5 vertebrae. When you have degenerative disc disease, the discs breakdown over time, losing fluid, which reduces their function as a shock-absorber, becoming less flexible. And in certain cases, the discs can crack, leaving the fluid to leak out, possibly causing the disc to bulge or rupture. In that case you are opening a whole new can of “spinal” worms.

Considering how common degenerative disc disease is among Americans, it is a shame to think of the risk factors for this condition compared to the actual reasons more and more people are experiencing it. Besides genetics or injury, the statistics for those who are obese and/or smoke are going up. Besides all the other health problems smoking and obesity bring on, you can add spinal disc deterioration to the list. Think about that while you are outside on a smoke break.

Unfortunately, even a small injury such falling out of bed as a child can potentially lead to this condition down the road. And if something simple as that can be a risk factor, then you can imagine what a major injury, such as a car accident, can do to your spine later in life.

No matter your daily routine, past injuries, current medical conditions, a healthy spine is a gift. To keep it strong and healthy it is imperative to treat it as such. Whether you currently have degenerative disc disease or not, there are certain habits you should acquire to keep your back in check.

To detect poor habits that can potentially lead you down back pain road, take some of these questions into account.

Do you get enough regular exercise?
Do you spend your days lifting heavy objects and consistently bending or twisting?
Do you have poor posture at the dinner table, work station or driving?
How much stress are you under?
Do you feel depressed?

If the majority of your answers lead you to believe you are in the danger zone for degenerative disc disease or any other type of debilitating back condition, you should first call your doctor, and then check back Wednesday to discover what you can do to “watch” your back, ease your stress and pull yourself out of a slump.

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EmpowHER Guest

Now that you've done a swell job of shaming people for having degenerative disc disease, provide a solution for all the losers that have it. Maybe stuff them all away in a nursing home and forget about them and their efforts in their livelihood and love for their families? They don't deserve recognition, right?

September 14, 2012 - 4:57am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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