It is certainly possible for chronic back pain to be related to degenerative disc disease, though the chronic pain could also be due to other structures and factors. Of the low back structures, disc-related symptoms are considered to be more common than those associated with lumbar joints, muscles, ligaments and bones.
The typical locations for spinal discs to degenerate are in the lower back and lower neck regions. However, just because disc degeneration is seen on diagnostic images – x-rays, MRI, CT scans – does not necessarily mean that this is the cause of a patient’s back discomfort. Generally, disc-related pain only occurs if there is a bulge or herniation that touches adjacent pain sensitive structures outside the disc itself. Though, in some cases of degenerative disc disease it is thought that chronic back pain can also result from pain sensitive nerves having grown into a damaged disc – as these nerves wouldn’t exist in a healthy disc. Diagnostic imaging comprises just a piece of the puzzle in the overall patient assessment process, which is aimed at arriving at as accurate a diagnosis as possible. Indeed, information gained from skilled history taking and physical examination of each patient can often provide more valuable information than that obtained from x-rays, MRIs, etc.. In the end, it is the whole of the case information that is most important so that a clinical care and advice strategy can be chosen that best matches the specific problem.
In this case, it is important to identify what, if any, damage occurred with the fall a few months ago as this may also influence the course of treatment/clinical advice. Additionally, it is important to appreciate that it is quite difficult to pinpoint a patient’s actual source of pain. Thankfully, for many cases of chronic back pain, it has been found that of greater importance is the need to focus our efforts on identifying particular manual treatments and self-management (postures, movements, exercises, etc.) strategies that reduce a patient’s activity limitations, along with increasing their fitness – even when skilled health care practitioners can’t be sure which spine structure/s is the ‘culprit’.
Whether your chronic back pain is due to degenerative disc disease or not, constant sitting at work and lack of exercise will not be helpful. Researchers have shown many health benefits from an active rather than sedentary lifestyle, including back pain reduction.
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