Degenerative disc disease and SI joint pain often go hand-in-hand since the lower back is a common problem area. Degenerative disc disease in the low back area can affect the sacroiliac joint. Sacroiliac joint pain can appear as low back or hip pain, so proper diagnosis is imperative to prevent further injury to the area.
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Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is also called spondylosis; it is the degeneration or breakdown of the spinal discs. The spinal discs are the gelatinous content between the spinal bones which provide shock absorption. Breakdowns in the discs occur with fluid loss or disruptions to the outer layer of the disc, both common problems confronted in the ageing process. Degeneration can also occur with changes to the spinal bones, such as stenosis, or the narrowing of the spinal canal; osteoarthritis, the wearing down of cartilage; and spinal disc bulges or ruptures.
SI Joint Pain
The sacroiliac (SI) joint connects the spine to the pelvis. This joint has the ability to support the weight of the upper body. When excessive stress is placed on the sacroiliac joint, pain and wear and tear to the cartilage can occur. Problems with the SI joint appear as pain in the lower back, which can radiate into the groin or thighs. Pain symptoms typically worsen with physical activity.
Degenerative Disc Disease and SI Joint Pain
Since the sacroiliac joint connects the sacrum (the triangular-shaped bone at the base of the spine) to the spine, disc degeneration in the lumbar or low back area can result in SI joint pain. This pain comes in the form of muscle spasms or tightness, inflammation or swelling, or nerve impingement or restriction from pressure due to the damaged disc. Episodes of pain can be intermittent, or persistent and chronic.
Since damage to the discs cannot be reversed, the best treatment for degenerative disc disease and SI joint pain is prevention. This can be achieved through a healthy lifestyle including a regular exercise program. Practicing proper body mechanics, which refers to optimal body positioning during static positions and dynamic activities, is also beneficial and will keep spine and disc trouble at bay. Increasing the curve of the lower back while standing or lifting, for example, can increase the risk of stress-induced pain symptoms and damage.
Treatment of degenerative disc disease and SI joint pain include the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and rest until acute or initial pain subsides. Once pain is at a manageable level, exercises to include back and abdominal strengthening and general cardiovascular fitness can prevent further injury. With severe cases, steroid injections to the area can decrease inflammation causing pain. Surgical options include repair or replacement of the damaged disc.
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