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What is lumbar spine osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease?

‘Degenerative Disc Disease (or DDD) is caused by degeneration of the discs in the spinal column. Age can cause this, but most of the time it is caused by some sort of trauma to the spine. People with bulging or herniated discs almost always have this disease, as well as people with Scoliosis. Degenerative disc disease is a natural process that occurs in the majority of individuals as we age. 

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a form of arthritis that features the progressive damage and eventual breakdown of the articular cartilage that lines our joints. Cartilage is a firm, rubber-like tissue that covers the surfaces of joints that allows our bones to glide on one another. If the cartilage breaks down due to wear and tear it will start to deteriorate and the bones begin to rub together. This rubbing together can cause pain, stiffness and swelling. The lumbar spine carries most of the body’s weight, which means that both movement and inactivity can trigger symptoms.

Symptoms range from person to person but you can experience numbness and tingling in the legs and buttocks. Loss of range of motion, pain usually with extension, commonly increased pain with standing, decreased pain with sitting. Symptoms can also get as severe as temporary paralysis in the legs or a particular leg. No two people will report the exact same symptoms.

In some cases, DDD has been seen as a /genetic/hereditary disease. However, not all doctors will agree on this and there have been no conclusive studies done to prove one way or the other. OA usually occurs in people over the age of 50 and is usually diagnosed through patient symptoms or diagnostic imaging. However, it is emphasized that ageing itself is not the sole cause of OA and should not be considered a part of ‘normal ageing. OA can result from a wide variety of conditions such as bad posture, occupational tasks, prolonged immobilization, obesity, or repetitive small injuries.

Treatment usually starts with physical therapy and pain medications to see if some of the pain is alleviated. Others might try steroid injects at the points on the discs that are messed up to try to directly alleviate the pain. Posture education and maintaining/ improving general cardiovascular fitness is important for patients with lumbar spine OA.

Complementary therapy treatments include acupuncture, herbs, pool therapy, and massages, all of these are other methods you could look into and see if they’re right for you. Check with your insurance and see if they cover any of these alternative methods. Some insurances will pay for them if you have a doctor state that he or she believes you could really benefit from such methods.

Seeking the proper medical advice and rehabilitation services will be critical in the management of this lifelong condition. Pursuing physiotherapy will help optimize your quality of life and prevent the development of a more severe spinal condition.

Performing a regular exercise routine will help to reduce the severity and duration of any ‘flare-ups’. Moving the back in a controlled way helps promote the delivery of nutrients to the joints in the spine keeping the disc, muscles and ligaments healthier.

Preventing the spread of degenerative disc disease involves catching the condition in an early stage, as damage to one disc can lead to a domino-like effect on other spinal levels, putting them at risk for disease or other conditions, like disc herniation. 

The following can help reduce the symptoms of lumbar arthritis:

If these methods do not work, your doctor might recommend surgery. They can perform a spinal fusion, place rods into your spinal column, and a few other alternative surgery methods. Surgery is entirely up to you and you should not feel pressured by your doctor to have surgery unless your ailment has become life-threatening.

Source: Pivotal Physio Medical News Today

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Soft tissue injuries are a common cause of low back pain. The vertebrae of the lower back are supported by many soft tissues including tendons and ligaments attached directly to it and others that stabilize supporting structures like the pelvis. Soft tissue injuries affect the non-bony and non­-disc portions of the spine.

Back strain is a fairly broad category and about 80% of back and neck pain is muscle-related. The stomach muscles, or abdominals, enable the back to bend forward. They also assist in lifting. The abdominals work with the buttock muscles to support the spine. The oblique muscles go around the side of the body to provide additional support to the spine. Unnecessary stress to the spine can be a contributing factor to an injury involving soft spinal structures.

When soft tissues are overstretched (sprained or strained) they become irritated and can cause pain. Low back pain from minor stretch injuries usually goes away on its own with enough rest, more severe injuries, however, require medical attention and set the stage for chronic low back pain.

Micro-trauma or mini-injuries to soft tissue may result from improper movement, especially when repeated. Soft tissue injuries can cause pain, swelling, bruising, and loss of function in some cases.

There are various types of soft tissue injuries, which include contusions, sprains, strains, tendonitis, bursitis, and stress injuries. I have been suffering from bursitis for over 8 months now. I have tried the RICE (see below) technique but it is proving quite difficult to heal. Stretch injuries can range from a few torn fibrils in the soft tissue to partial and complete tears. 

Soft tissues that heal incompletely can lose tightness and the ability to support and stability. Lax soft tissues can affect areas other than the spine, however, and still lead to low back pain. Loose ligaments in the sacroiliac joint region, where the spine joins the pelvis, can destabilize the hip and compromise its ability to support the spine. Excess tension is placed on structures in the spine and soft tissues are left to compensate for this instability. This in turn leads to low back pain and irritation of soft tissues involved in compensating for hip instability.

Treatment depends on the type of soft tissue injury. In general, the best initial treatment for a soft tissue injury is RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Another treatment could be Prolotherapy, which is an injection-based regenerative treatment, that works by injecting healing substances to the site of injury and triggering inflammation. By doing this, the treatment recruits healing components to the site of injury to further the healing process.

Source: Emedihealth, Orthospine, Santacruzcore

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Can sugar cause headaches?

Migraine Relief Centre has written an article on how sugar can cause headaches. They write that consuming too much or too little sugar can trigger head pain, especially for those with conditions like diabetes. This happens because of changes in your blood glucose level.

The sugar itself doesn’t cause the pain, but sugar-heavy foods spike your blood sugar levels. The quick change in your blood glucose level can directly affect your brain. That swing from low to high sugar levels is what can trigger a headache. If your migraine attacks appear to be triggered or made worse by having low blood sugar levels, make sure you have small, frequent, low-sugar meals.

Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints.

Eating too much sugar can also trigger reactive hypoglycemia, as your body fights to stabilize the levels of sugar in the blood — also known as a ‘sugar hangover‘.

If you suspect that sugar may be a migraine trigger, keep a migraine diary and food log to identify any correlation between what you eat and when you experience headaches or migraines. If you find a connection, talk to your doctor about hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia and how best to take care of your health. 

An isolated sugar headache can be treated with over-the-counter medicine and (sugar-free) hydration, but chronic sugar-related headaches should prompt a trip to your doctor or headache specialist.  

You can have a sugar headache and not a migraine as the headaches caused by glucose and your brain are also related to hormones activated by sugar levels.

In general, you should maintain a blood sugar level between 70–120 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). This number may change if you have diabetes or another health condition. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations about blood sugar levels.

Some conditions, like diabetes, may also make you more likely to experience sugar-related headaches. That’s because you may have an increased risk for hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. Those who have diabetes are prone to sugar headaches as their blood levels quickly fluctuate. But diabetes is not the only cause of these headaches, so monitor your diet before jumping to conclusions.

Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle may reduce the frequency of sugar headaches, but don’t hesitate to get professional help if you need it. 

A few tips and tricks to avoid that headache from taking over your day. Sleeping in even just for half an hour can cause a headache, in particular for coffee lovers as the caffeine affects the blood vessels in the brain and reduction when you sleep in, exacerbated by low blood sugar due to a late breakfast, can cause pain.

Dehydration is another trigger for a headache so when the temperatures rise make sure you are taking in lots of fluids.

Acupuncture, Yoga nd a head massage can reduce intensity and frequency of headaches but always contact your GP if the headache does not go away.

Source: Utopia Diabetes Healthline Migraine Relief Centre