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Tips for managing DDD with exercise and PT?

dlughddlugh Posts: 3
edited 12/20/2015 - 9:33 PM in Degenerative Disc Disease
I am new to this forum but am already really impressed with the community and all the helpful information here. After 2 years of living with pain related to Degenerative Disc Disorder, and keeping an eye on what makes it better/worse, I have realized its insane to keep doing what i've been doing and expecting different results.

With the year wrapping up, I'm hoping to jump into next year with a clear plan of action of how to:
1) Minimize pain from DDD while
2) Maintaining a healthy workout regimen.

If anyone is on these forums and in a similar situation, I'd be more than happy to keep in contact so we can share what is working and what isn't. From what I've read here, with a carefully planned exercise, stretching, and relief strategy, the symptoms from DDD can be drastically reduced and can prevent more pain in the future.

Here is some background about myself:

- Currently 28 years old. Was diagnosed with degenerative disc disorder from an MRI 2 years ago. The problem area seems to be in my L1-2 vertebrae (detail: moderate to severe disc space narrowing, schmorl's node involving inferior endplate, broad-based disc protrusion, 3mm in diameter)

- About me: Pain started about 2 years ago. I was previously very active, lifting weights at the gym 4 days per week and practicing jiu-jitsu twice per week. My back pain didn't directly result from any notable injury, although a few hits I took in JJ may have contributed. Since then I have pretty much quit going to the gym. I run once a week, do a little yoga, and some light resistance training with bands. I love being active but the way things are going, the increased pain resulting from working out isn't worth it and I have been working out less as a result.

- Pain description: Varies quite a bit depending on level of activity. Any weight lifting that or high impact activity will cause my mid-back muscles on either side of the lumbar spine to be extremely stiff. Any given day, I'd say my back pain is a 3 or 4 out of 10 (somewhat distracting but not debilitating. Present enough to constantly be aware of the pain and feel it just getting out of chairs, lifting boxes, etc). If I have a hard workout, the pain goes up to a 6 and if I twist or bend the wrong way, shooting pains of an 8.

- Current treatment: I occasionally use a heat pack and take NSAIDs. I have been stretching for 10 minutes every morning and usually go for a 15 minute walk first thing in the morning to loosen up.

I have been researching various stretches and exercises on the site, but haven't seen much info on a comprehensive plan to progressively develop core and back strength. Does anyone have any example routines or strategies they'd like to share? I don't have a lot of money for doctors or physical therapy right now, so I'm trying to see how much I can do on my own.

Thanks in advance

ALL excercise programs should be cleared and approved by your medical provider post op and specific to your individual condition. It is unwise and unsafe to follow the excercise programs of other members without your doctor's permission.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Please take the time to read this post and refer to it when you have questions

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    Liz -Spine-health Moderator

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Hi John,
    I am new to this forum too. I've had back problems off and on for a while, but nothing as serious as the last year and a half. Like you I was really active, sporty, liked to do things like skiing, races (nothing big...5 or 10Ks), biking , weight lifting and yoga. Now I don't feel like I can do anything. I have severe degenerative disk disease in my lower back (L4 and L5). The way I manage the pain is to do my PT exercises every single day. At first I had to do 3 rounds of spinal injections and I went to PT about twice a week for 8 months. I was given about 40 minutes of back exercises/stretches to do daily from my physical therapist. I never miss doing them. I also do 15m a day of stationary biking. I've added other exercises to keep myself a bit stronger like planks, push ups, and some small weight exercises. It's pitiful though. I have had to give up all sporty things that I love to do. I don't do any twisting exercises. I now ALWAYS do squats to pick up around the house or play with my kids. I never twist in the car to pass things back to the kids anymore. I have to move slower. I sit with lumbar support at my computer. I cannot do anything slightly strenuous or else I have a lot of pain. I wake up extremely stiff and sore. I'm interested to see what others do to manage their pain.
  • Hey Carrie,
    Sounds like you've been doing a great job at keeping up with the PT. Has it helped in reducing day-to-day pain for you? Anything you feel was particularly effective?

    I'm personally really interested in how lifestyle changes can improve the DDD pain. For me, just modifying my workouts initially (no more crunches or kettle bell swings) helped tremendously. Also, when I was recently able to take some time off work and go travel, I walked 20km per day which also helped a lot. Obviously that is hard to have time to do while working, but it was encouraging to think of lifestyle changes I could do to reduce this pain as much as possible and get my active life back.

    Someone recommended I check out "Dr Eric Goodman" who has a bunch of lower back workouts and talks on youtube. He seems to believe that chronic back pain can be reversed with enough re-training, proper movement, and back strengthening. I've started to do his low back workout 3 time per week and am going to take note of any impact is has on my back pain.
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