Things to Avoid with Degenerative Disc Disease: Lifestyle Changes and Habits to Keep Your Spine Healthy

A diagnosis of degenerative disc disease (DDD) can be very intimidating at first. Especially considering the fact that this condition affects the majority of individuals over 30, and it’s accelerated in athletes who demand a lot from their body and especially their spines. Is your active lifestyle over, though? Not in the least, DDD isn’t a death sentence! Let’s discuss things to avoid with degenerative disc disease, and tips on how to keep a strong, healthy spine. 

A Primer on DDD

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that occurs when the discs between the vertebrae start to break down due to wear and tear over time. While aging is a factor in this condition, intense competitive sports and heavy weight lifting can also accelerate the progression of disc disease. This leads to back pain, stiffness, and other symptoms. While DDD is common in older adults, there are several lifestyle changes and habits that can help to prevent or slow down its progression.

Things to Avoid with Degenerative Disc Disease


Smoking is a habit that is difficult to quit, but it is important to do so as it increases the risk of degenerative disc disease. When you smoke, the blood flow to your spinal discs is reduced, and this deprives them of the nutrients they need to stay healthy. This leads to further damage to the discs, which can result in chronic back pain and other spinal conditions.

If you are a smoker, there are several ways you can quit smoking. One way is to gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day until you are no longer smoking. Another way is to use nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches or gum, to help you cope with withdrawal symptoms. You can also try behavioral therapy, which involves identifying the triggers that make you want to smoke and finding alternative ways to deal with them.

It is important to note that quitting smoking is not easy, and you may experience several withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, and depression. However, the benefits of quitting smoking are numerous, and they include improved blood flow, reduced risk of degenerative disc disease, and a lower risk of developing other health conditions such as lung cancer and heart disease.

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Taking Breaks from Sitting

Sitting for long periods can be detrimental to your health. Not only can it lead to degenerative disc disease, but it can also cause poor posture and circulation issues. Taking frequent breaks to stand up, stretch, and walk around can help to alleviate this pressure and keep your spine healthy.

There are many ways to incorporate breaks into your day. For example, you could set a reminder to stand up and stretch every 30 minutes or so. You could also take a short walk around your office or outside during your lunch break. Additionally, you could try incorporating more movement into your workday by using a standing desk or taking phone calls while walking around.

things to avoid with degenerative disc disease

By taking breaks from sitting, you can not only improve your physical health but also your mental wellbeing. Frequent breaks can help to reduce stress and increase productivity, allowing you to come back to your work with a clear mind and fresh perspective. So, next time you find yourself sitting for prolonged periods, remember to take a break and give your body and mind a much-needed rest.

Lifting Heavy Objects

Lifting heavy objects can be dangerous if not done properly; it can cause injury to your back and contribute to the development of degenerative disc disease. However, there are ways to lift objects safely.

When lifting, begin by standing close to the object and placing your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and bend your knees, not your back. Use your leg muscles to lift the object, not your back muscles. Hold the object close to your body and keep your head up. Avoid twisting or bending at the waist while lifting.

If the object is too heavy to lift safely, it is always better to ask for help or use a lifting aid. Be aware of your own physical limitations and do not attempt to lift more than you are capable of lifting safely. Remember, safety should always be your top priority when lifting heavy objects.

How Weightlifters Can Deal with DDD

If you’re passionate about lifting weights and you’re suffering from degenerative disc, just know that your weight lifting career isn’t over. It’s important to modify your lifting program however. There are certain movements like Squats and Deadlifts that should be done sparingly. 

One of the most important things to avoid with degenerative disc disease is to perform these lifts extremely heavily and on consecutive days. Instead, try favoring lower weight and higher reps. You can also use accommodating resistance, like bands and chains – these techniques increase the resistance as you gain leverage throughout the lift and are a bit more safe for your back. 

Finally, consider sled dragging and exercises like Prowler pushes. Utilizing sleds is much more effective and safer for your spine, considering that there’s no weightbearing being performed during these movements. Don’t underestimate them though – they’re extremely challenging!

How to Keep Your Spine Healthy

Exercise Regularly

While excessive lifting and one-rep max attempts are one of the most important things to avoid with degenerative disc disease, regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to prevent degenerative disc disease and maintain a healthy spine. In addition to the low-impact exercises mentioned, there are many other activities you can try to keep your body moving. For example, weight training can help to build strong muscles that support your spine, while high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can improve cardiovascular health and burn fat. Even activities like gardening or dancing can provide a good workout while being enjoyable.

Yoga and Pilates are also excellent choices as they promote flexibility, balance, and core strength. These exercises can help to improve your posture and reduce the risk of developing degenerative disc disease. Furthermore, there are many different types of yoga and Pilates classes available, so you can find one that suits your fitness level and personal preferences.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential to prevent degenerative disc disease caused by the extra pressure that being overweight or obese puts on the spine. In addition to reducing this pressure and preventing further damage to the discs, losing weight through a healthy diet and exercise has numerous other health benefits, such as reducing the risk of developing various chronic conditions like hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it’s essential to pay attention to what you eat and engage in regular physical activity to maintain a healthy weight.

Eating a balanced diet is also crucial to keeping your spine healthy. In addition to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, your diet should also include lean protein sources like fish, chicken, and tofu. These protein sources are crucial for muscle growth and maintenance, which helps support your spine. Furthermore, it’s essential to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugary drinks or those high in caffeine, such as soda or coffee.

Practice Good Posture

Poor posture is a common problem that affects many people nowadays. It can lead to various health issues, including back pain and degenerative disc disease. Therefore, it is essential to maintain good posture to avoid these problems. Here are some tips on how to improve your posture:

  • Sit and stand up straight with your shoulders back and your head facing forward. This will help to distribute weight evenly throughout your spine and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Avoid slouching or hunching over, especially when sitting for long periods. This can strain your neck and back muscles, leading to pain and discomfort.
  • If you work at a desk, make sure your chair is at the right height and that your computer screen is at eye level. This will help to prevent neck and eye strain.
  • Take breaks every hour or so to stretch and move around. This will help to improve circulation and reduce stiffness in your muscles.

Stem Cell Therapy For Disc Disease

The field of regenerative medicine is advancing rapidly and stem cell therapy is providing hope for those who deal with DDD. Not only does stem cell therapy appear to have the ability to regenerate the intravertebral discs, but stem cells have a unique ability to scavenge and eliminate inflammatory chemicals. Keep in mind that the majority of the pain you’ll experience with DDD is simply due to inflammation. Learn more about stem cell therapy for degenerative disc disease here. 

Getting Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is not only essential for maintaining good health, but it can also contribute significantly to the health of your spine. When you sleep, your body goes into a state of rest and repair, which is vital for regenerating cells and tissues, including those in your spine. Additionally, studies have shown that people who consistently get enough sleep are less likely to experience back pain and other spinal problems.

It’s important to note that simply getting any amount of sleep is not enough to promote spinal health. It’s recommended that adults aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, as this is the amount of time needed for your body to complete a full sleep cycle. Furthermore, it’s important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, as irregular sleep patterns can disrupt the regenerative processes that occur during sleep.

So, if you want to keep your spine healthy, make sure to prioritize getting enough quality sleep each night. Your body will thank you for it in more ways than one!

Managing Stress

Stress is a common problem that affects many people, and it can cause a variety of physical and mental health problems. One of the most common symptoms of stress is muscle tension, which can lead to back pain and other issues. However, there are many techniques that can be used to manage stress and reduce these symptoms.

One effective way to manage stress is through relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. These techniques can help to calm the mind and reduce tension in the body, which can help to alleviate back pain and other symptoms. Additionally, practicing these techniques regularly can help to promote overall health and wellness.

Another way to manage stress is through physical activity. Exercise has been shown to be an effective way to reduce stress and improve overall health. This can include activities such as walking, running, or swimming, as well as more structured exercise programs like weightlifting or yoga.

Staying Hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial not only for maintaining healthy discs in your spine but also for overall bodily functions. Drinking the recommended intake of water throughout the day can help regulate body temperature, improve digestion, and aid in nutrient absorption.

In regards to spinal health, the discs that make up the spine are primarily composed of water. Dehydration can cause the discs to lose height, which can lead to increased pressure on the spine and an increased risk of degenerative disc disease. Additionally, dehydration can cause the discs to become brittle and more prone to injury. Therefore, it is essential to drink plenty of water every day to keep your spine healthy.

Don’t Overlook These Things to Avoid with Degenerative Disc Disease

In conclusion, degenerative disc disease is a serious health condition that affects a large number of people worldwide. While the lifestyle changes and habits mentioned in the original text can help prevent the onset or slow down the progression of the disease, there are other steps you can take to further minimize your risk. While keeping in mind there are certain things to avoid with degenerative disc disease, it’s also helpful to modify your lifestyle and incorporate healthy habits. 

Keeping your body fit and strong is a great way to delay the progression of this condition, avoid other health complications, and live a balanced life. If you have already been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease or are experiencing symptoms such as back pain or stiffness, it is important to seek professional medical advice. 

For more advanced and painful cases, consider stem cell therapy as it may help you to regenerate the tissues in your discs while combatting the inflammation that causes your pain and stiffness.

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