Question: Are there options beyond cortisone and surgery for degenerative disc disease?

I am 30 years old and I started suffering lower back pains about a year ago. Around six months ago, my doctor sent me for x-rays and told me I had degenerative spinal disorder. He put me on pain killers (when needed) and 800mg of ibuprofen three times daily.

He asked me to take the ibuprofen religiously for six months, and to give his office a call and let them know how I have been. Well, it will be six months next week and I have had a few good days and a lot of bad days.

What should I expect from this point? Is surgery or a cortisone shot my only options now? And do most people get back to a “normal” lifestyle after one of these treatments?

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Doctor’s response: Hamstring stretching for degenerative disc disease is very important

I think your physician was most likely referring to degenerative disc disease, which is fairly common among 30 year olds. The best treatments are anti-inflammatory medications (i.e. NSAIDs or ibuprofen) and physical therapy.

For patients with degenerative disc disease, exercises are very important to reestablish the normal motion and strength in the spine. A daily hamstring stretching program is key to help relieve pain from degenerative disc disease. Also important are stabilization exercises and aerobic conditioning.

Cortisone shots and surgery for degenerative disc disease are only warranted if extensive conservative treatment fails to restore function.

The standing hamstring stretch is the most common hamstring stretch technique. Watch: Standing Hamstring Stretch for Low Back Pain Relief Video

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In Spine-health’s Doctor Advice section, physicians respond to frequently asked questions about back pain issues. These responses represent the opinion of one physician, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the broader medical community. The advice presented has not been peer reviewed by Spine-health’s medical advisory board.