3 things to AVOID to prevent degenerative disc disease from getting worse

prevent degenerative disc disease from getting worse

In order to prevent degenerative disc disease from getting worse, we have to understand the pain, find movements our body likes again, and avoid giving up hope. Many times people are misled that surgery is the quick fix but, surprisingly the failed surgery rates are upwards of 50% for those with lower back degenerative disc disease. If you want to control your pain and keep your adventure alive with degenerative disc disease, it is important to avoid these 3 things below.

Degenerative disc disease is very common and can be debilitating if nothing is done to help the pain. It can be scary to hear the diagnosis and see the x-rays. Conservative treatment We are here to show you today 3 things you need to avoid in order to prevent degenerative disc disease from getting worse.

I met a woman when I was working in a traditional physical therapy clinic who was an avid tennis player and golfer. She had started to develop back pain but just thought she would try to shake it off. She stopped playing tennis and golf because the rotation made her back go into a spasm.

A month went by and her pain continued to get worse. She continued to spend more time resting and continued to decline. Her life became Advil and inactivity. Finally after 12 months of this, she had to use a cane to walk around her home. 

Finally after 18 months of chronic back pain, she couldn’t take it anymore. She went to see her surgeon and had a spinal fusion done. She knew a long road to recovery was ahead but she really wanted to get back to activity. 

After she had recovered, her surgeon told her at her appointment she will have a hard time playing both tennis and golf because her range of motion will likely be permanently limited from the fusion.

Unfortunately this is the typical road for a lot of people living with degenerative disc disease. Typically they aren’t aware that pain relief is possible outside of surgery. But here’s the problem…

“Many patients are mistakenly led to the belief that [degenerative disc disease] can be cured by surgery, sadly failed surgeries and residual neurological deficits are common”

(Donnally III et al. 2020)

It is important to understand that surgery does have a time and a place. But with degenerative disc disease, surgery is rarely warranted but many people think it is the only option. In fact, one of the best ways to live and thrive with degenerative disc disease is to believe that the pain can actually be changed.

Then, in order to best prevent degenerative disc disease from getting worse, you should learn more about what it is, understand that movement is important, and continue to find ways to stay motivated. 

The key to unlocking pain relief and preventing it from getting worse is first, understanding what can make the pain worse. Many times we are doing these things unknowingly! If you want to take a step towards relief and preventing progression of degenerative disc disease right NOW, learn these 5 Things That Are Making Your Degenerative Disc Disease Worse.

Our beliefs are actually one of the strongest dictators of our pain. Understanding what to avoid and what makes pain worse are two common things people typically skip. Skipping these steps may be setting you up for failure and could be why other treatments have not worked for you in the past. 

Degenerative disc disease can be classified as a type of spinal osteoarthritis. If you want to know 5 action steps right now to help on your arthritis journey, I have a free ebook for you: The Ultimate Arthritis Guide that you can get right now!

These are the top 3 things you need to avoid when finding a way to tackle your pain and thrive with degenerative disc disease!

1. Avoid trusting everything you hear

Hearing a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t get much more information about it. There can be misleading information coming from all different outlets including: television, friends, family, or the internet. It can be frustrating to try to figure out what’s true. And if we stumble across the wrong information, it could potentially set us up for failure.

Take for example, our mother in law tells us that when she was having back pain the best thing she did for it was rest. So you in turn, rest for a couple of weeks in hopes the pain will go away. Turns out, resting is one of the worst things you can do because it can weaken your muscles, increase your fear of movement, and actually fuel your pain.

We need the facts and we need them fast.

Many times, when we are visiting doctors, we don’t have a lot of time to ask questions and they don’t have much time to tell us what we need to know about the condition. That’s why we are here! Learning what the condition is and what causes it is one of the key things to be able to prevent degenerative disease from getting worse. So what is it?

  • What is it? Degenerative disc disease is a condition that occurs when parts of our spine, the squishy part between the vertebrae start losing vital nutrients. It then becomes less elastic, stiffer, and less flexible. This can happen if these areas are compressed or overloaded from chronic posture deficits, repetitive unsafe lifting mechanics, and limited physical activity. Genetics can play a part in its incidence as well. When this happens, we essentially compress one side of the disc (squishy part) to a certain degree that makes it more difficult for nutrients to get in. This process can gradually lead to pain and limitations in mobility.
  • But what about my x-ray? One study looked at imaging findings (x-rays, MRIs) and found that “increasing prevalence with increasing age, and some findings (disk degeneration and signal loss) were present in nearly 90% of individuals 60 years of age or older”. Think about that, 90% of the population 60+ BUT, not everyone has back pain! These are normal age-related changes and are NOT necessarily associated with pain.
  • How do we fix this? Stop the overload. Correct the movement patterns. We can do this by helping improve your quality of movement so your body learns the right way to move again. This can allow more nutrients to come in and brings back the health of the discs. Movement can truly heal our pain. More details below on where to start.
  • What makes it worse? Continuing with these disadvantageous movement patterns, remaining sedentary, premature surgery, believing there is nothing that can be done, and poor diet are all contributors to increased pain.
  • What does the pain feel like? With degenerative disc disease, you can feel local pain in the low back that tends to resemble a dull ache because of muscle tightness or spasms. You can also feel radiating pain that goes down potentially to your foot or anywhere in between. Both of these types of pain are usually very responsive to conservative management.
  • When should you seek more information? If you are experiencing problems with bowel or bladder control, difficulty initiating urination, fever, nighttime chills, unexplained weight loss, a recent fall or accident, or have a history of cancer- there is a possibility your pain could be something more serious. If you aren’t experiencing any of these symptoms, are able to relieve your pain in certain positions, have increased pain when you move certain ways or if you are standing/sitting too long, or pain with rotation- take a deep breath, you likely do not need any serious intervention at this time.

Once we understand that our joints aren’t deteriorating as we are standing or sitting here reading this, we can find a glimmer of relief. In order to help to prevent degenerative disc disease from getting worse we need to find hope! There is a light at the end of the tunnel, we just have to keep moving towards it. Let’s find out how.

2. Avoid being sedentary

One of the first things that we typically give up when we have pain is movement. Our first instinct is to rest. The longer we rest, the better we will get. This is far from the truth though. One of the best treatments for low back pain is actually exercise. One of the exercises to prevent degenerative disc disease from getting worse is just simply walking. We have to help your body figure out how to move properly again.

If we have been dealing with pain for a long time, our body almost “forgets” how to move correctly. Pain alters our movements then our body learns those movements as normal. This is why if you are dealing with low back pain, you may start to notice pain elsewhere such as your knee or hip or even vice versa. Moving differently starts to affect other joints too!

The longer we rest and avoid movement, the weaker our muscles get. This then leads to our joints taking much more of the force because we don’t have muscle support to help absorb it, i.e more pain. Our bodies are meant to move! Its time we start. But which movements should we be doing? Great question, look at the video below to the top 4 exercises to start with to prevent degenerative disc disease from getting worse.

Mobility is also extremely important. You may notice stiffness in your upper and lower back that can contribute to continued low back pain along with potential shoulder pain. Completing simple mobility exercises can help to increase your flexibility. There are some examples here.

Follow these 6 exercises above, make sure you do enough repetitions that you begin to feel fatigue. Don’t have any stretchy bands? Get some here, they will be very useful to you. None of these exercises should increase pain significantly, some discomfort is okay though- you won’t be making things worse.

Usually there may be discomfort on the first couple of repetitions but tends to go away as your body gets used to it. What we don’t want is pain to increase with repetitions. That is your joint saying it isn’t ready for that movement yet.

3. Avoid giving up

It may be tempting to look to back support braces, injections, and other passive treatments and think these an easy step towards finding pain relief compared to active interventions like exercise and stretching. These may only provide temporary relief. You could be missing the boat on long term pain relief.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these objects can be very beneficial to supplement with an exercise and diet program. Some of them include: 

Many times, when relying on passive interventions it could lead to surgeries that are both, premature and preventable. When preventing degenerative disc disease from getting worse, it’s important we put priority on long term results.

Don’t give up on yourself. We know what is causing our degenerative disc disease. We know we can fix it and prevent it from getting worse. The biggest factor in this though, you have to believe. You have to believe in what you are doing.

If we continue to adopt the mindset of “why me?” and “there is nothing I can do for this pain” we will continue to have pain. We will continue to feel hopeless and defeated. I know so many who have had amazing results from these recommendations above.

This actually works to prevent degenerative disc disease from getting worse

One of my recent clients could not bend over and pick something off of the ground without pain. He couldn’t get dressed without pain. He couldn’t walk longer that 0.5 miles without pain. He had gained weight because he significantly reduced his activity. The surgeon he saw wanted to operate but he was searching for other options. He began working with us and after just a few sessions, he finally believed in himself again.

He now is able to bend over without any pain. It no longer a chore to get dressed in the morning. He is walking up to 2 miles without pain and just had to buy new pants because he was losing weight. These things are possible but we have to put our minds to it. He has followed our program 6 days per week for the past 3 months. It is so important to understand that we can change our pain.

Results may not be immediate but man are they worth it. What would you rather have, a scar and a spinal fusion OR a strong, toned body?!

It’s time to start working to prevent degenerative disc disease from getting worse! Without action your pain will likely continue to get worse, you will continue to lose your strength, and potentially even gain unwanted weight. Pain relief is possible.


If you are ready to break free from restrictions from your degenerative disc disease this is exactly what you need.

You really need to see this because without knowing these tips, you could be making your pain worse without even knowing it! 

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Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this video or site.

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